Canoe Plants of Ancient Hawai`i
Home - Intro - Contents - Bibliography - Links - Credits
`Ape - `Awa -`Awapuhi -Hau -Ipu -Kalo -Kamani -Ki -Ko -Kou -Kukui -Mai`a
Milo -Niu -Noni -`Ohe -`Ohi`a `Ai -`Olena -Olona -Pia -`Uala -Uhi -`Ulu -Wauke



Canoe Plants of Ancient Hawaii tracks the path of various important plants carried in voyaging canoes crisscrossing Oceania, and finally to the middle of the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. The history, the botanical nomenclature, the cultural significance, cultivation and uses of the plants are an adventure into the past, and a challenge to the future. Enjoy Lynton Dove White's work of Aloha for that which is Hawaii. This is Oceania.

- Roselle Keliihonipua Bailey

© copyright Ka Imi Naauao o Hawaii Nei


Come with me on a voyage to the most isolated oceanic islands on our planet, thousands of miles from the nearest continent.

Imagine a race of beings courageous enough to launch themselves in hand-hewn wooden canoes, sailing until landfall, using their skills of wayfinding to guide them to these mountain islands.

These Polynesian voyagers of a great oceanic nation trusted in a benevolent order that included an active relationship with plants. A few life-sustaining plants had long been cultivated through selection and preservation. Upon the sailing canoes were stashed precious cargo of the shoots, roots, cuttings and seeds of these plants for food, cordage, medicine, fabric, containers, all of life's vital needs. This was a culture without clay or iron whose people knew the intrinsic value of the cargo they carried beyond the horizon.

We live on a planet of plants. We are their stewards. Through photosynthesis they receive our wastes, providing us with the air we breathe. In addition they give food and medicine, fiber for basic needs such as clothing, cordage and shelter, as well as graciously offering themselves for our entertainment and upliftment as musical instruments. Aware of this relationship, early peoples learned through trial and error which plants could serve their needs and how to farm them prayerfully and skillfully.

Several decades ago when these Hawaiian islands opened to me as home, I left behind the North American continent, and those trees and herbs I had grown to know and love. New plants welcomed me here, and I remember thinking that I had much to learn as to who they were and what their uses might be. I yearned to know more than just their names.

Many kind people here have guided and informed me in the ensuing years. At some point I became eager to learn which plants came to Hawaii with the original voyaging Polynesians who courageously sailed and settled here. That is how this book began.

Over the years I studied intensely, listening carefully to what I was told about Hawaii and its culture in its diverse aspects.

The plants I have come to name the "Canoe Plants" were those that interested me most. For three years I was given an opportunity to write a monthly newspaper column (called "Natural Benefits") in Alberta de Jetley's Hana News. I am grateful to my friend and to all those who showed me ways to deepen with Hawaii.

The first Hawaiian teacher I experienced in Hawaii was Kumu Hula Roselle Bailey. In the late 1970's I lived for a while on the island of Kaua'i. During that time I went often to an open grassy place where Roselle danced hula, surrounded by her halau, the students of Ka Imi Naauao o Hawaii Nei. It was through Roselle's strength in union with her graceful beauty that I began to understand the depth of the connection that the Kanaka Maoli have to their 'aina, this place on earth that feeds them physically and spiritually. With her feet on this earth she moved with all the realms of being, all life, through hula. The wind blew through the surrounding plants as the dancers moved in accord, in harmony.

For hundreds of years this harmony with the earth has been practiced by the people of these islands. The farmers were aware of what today we call ecological and organic sustainability and diversity.

Through the peaceful use of natural resources, Hawaiian gardeners used their knowledge to provide food for their families. The farmers were attuned to sources of water, the weather and seasons as well as the soil itself. Fertility was enhanced with compost and mulch of organic matter, even to the recycling of the natural fibers of their used clothing and bedding. Raised beds, specific depths for holes dug with a simple wooden staff, the o'o, the rotation of crops, the flooding of areas for certain plants. These and many other methods were used for centuries of self-sufficiency. The work and harvest of the farmers was supplemented by an evolved system of aquaculture as well as careful harvesting of the reefs and ocean for fish and limu, seaweed. Enough time remained for ceremony, sports, religion and other activities lived in Aloha.

With all due respect to those who have creatively kept this Hawaii, Hawaii Nei, alive, I offer this book in praise and in gratitude, with deep Aloha.

Lynton Dove White
Maui, Hawaii
Central Vermont

Canoe Plants of Ancient Hawai`i
Intro - Contents - Bibliography - Links - Credits

`Ape - `Awa -`Awapuhi -Hau -Ipu -Kalo -Kamani -Ki -Ko -Kou -Kukui -Mai`a
Milo -Niu -Noni -`Ohe -`Ohi`a `Ai -`Olena -Olona -Pia -`Uala -Uhi -`Ulu -Wauke