Native Plants: Lowland Dry and Mesic Forest
The kula, or native lowland dry and mesic forest, was the major ecosystem in the ahupua'a of Nawiliwili Bay. It stretched, uninterrupted, from the coastal zone to the wet forest in the back of Ha'iku. . In the kula at Nawiliwili Bay, these would have been the most common native plants: Lowland Dry and Mesic Forest uses plant photos courtesy of the UH Botany Dept. Descriptive text is taken from How to Plant a Native Hawaiian Garden - an on line handbook. It also relies on Feathered Gods and Fishhooks by Patrick V. Kirch, and Koamalu by Ethel Damon
Lama - endemic (found nowhere else in the world). The most frequent tree in the dry forest. Lama wood is hard and light colored and is sacred to Laka, goddess of hula. Ideal for house posts and as walls around pa (sacred or important enclosures).
Pili Grass - indigenous (naturally occurring here and other places). It was the principal thatching material for houses because it has a pleasant aroma and pili (clings) to the house framework.
Wilwili - Ancient Hawaiians used the light wood for fish net floats, surfboards, and canoe outrigger floats (ama). Endemic to arid lowlands and dry forests on all main islands. The abundance of wiliwili trees at Nawiliwili Bay was the source of its name.
Ala'a - endemic
'Ohe - endemic. Because it is host to more native insects than any other native tree, 'ohe is thought to be one of the first trees to arrive in Hawai'i.

- Naio inhabits a wide range of ecological habitats: beaches, lowlands, dry forests, semi-dry forests, and subalpine forests up to 7500 feet elevation. Ancient Hawaiians used the hard, yellowish wood for house frames. It was unsuccessfully substituted for sandalwood during the waning days of the sandalwood trade.

Indigenous to all the main islands of Hawai`i except for possibly Kaho`olawe.

'Iliahi -
endemic. This is the fragrant variety harvested and shipped to China. It was abundant in lowland mesic forest, like the ahupua'a of Nawiliwili Bay. 'Iliahi is a partial parasite, as it absorbs nutrients from the roots of nearby plants. Only the heartwood has the oil that produces it's wonderful fragrance.
'Ahakea - endemic. In the mid 1800's, the forest between Hanamaulu and Nawiliwili was mostly hau, 'ahakea, koa, and kukui. (Ethel Damon)

- endemic. Below the equator, koa refers to the ironwood tree. Hawaiian settlers applied this name to our endemic koa tree because it had the same uses as the ironwood.
(Patrick V. Kirch)

Loulu -
endemic varieties on each island. The leaves of native loulu were once used for thatching. Young bleached leaves were used for weaving hats, fans, and baskets. Marie C. Neal also reported that Hawaiians ate the unripe seeds, hawane or wahane, which tasted somewhat like coconut. It is now thought that loulu grew in abundance along the streams at Nawilwili Bay.
Today, the native lowland mesic forest has nearly been replaced with introduced plants (like haole koa and Java plum), or sugar plantations. This was the main area occupied and changed by Hawaiian settlers. However, the wet forest has survived relatively intact to the present day. For the Hawaiian settlers, this was the wao akua (traditional realm of Hawaiian gods), and not for ordinary humans.
Created June 2001