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Hapu'u Pulu - Hawaiian Tree Fern
Photograph - Photography - Fine Art Photography
Synonym: Cibotium splendens (Gaud.) Krajina
Common name: häpu‘u, häpu‘u pulu, Hawaiian tree fern
Häpu‘u is native to most of the Hawaiian islands. It is one of more than 800 species of tree ferns, descendants
of prehistoric vegetation found worldwide in semi-wet
to wet forests from sea level to over 5000 ft elevation.
Häpu‘u was once common in wetter areas of all the
major Hawaiian islands. Until recently, large numbers
of Hawaiian tree ferns were harvested for orchid media
and landscape use. Over-exploitation has reduced häpu‘u
Presently all tree ferns are considered threatened spe
cies, because so many of them are found only in the
rapidly diminishing rainforests of the world.
Häpu‘u pulu grows to 15–20 feet tall and has a 15-foot
spread. It is the most common tree fern in Hawaii and is
a landscaping favorite, creating a tropical appearance
and feeling with its lacy, arching, fresh, apple-green
coloured leaves. It is very slow growing. The average rate
of growth of young häpu‘u ferns is about 3.5 inches per
year. The rate of growth slows as the plant gets older.
Häpu‘u is a fern and does not produce flowers. The
spores (“seeds”) are produced by fruiting bodies on the
underside of the leaves.
Häpu‘u fronds (“leaves”) have an intricately divided,
tripinnate form and are 3–9 ft long. The fronds emerge
from a stout, fibrous, dark brown base (“trunk”). The
growing point, stalks, and young unfurled fronds of
häpu‘u pulu are covered with a silky, red-brown, wool
like fiber called pulu, which was used in ancient times
for dressing wounds and embalming and for stuffing
pillows and mattresses.
The fronds of häpu‘u i‘i, another native Hawaiian
tree fern, have a thick growth of stiff, dark hair on the
petioles. Häpu‘u i‘i is slightly larger than häpu‘u pulu
and its frond stems are more leathery. Otherwise, the
two species of häpu‘u are nearly identical in appearance
Do not collect tree ferns from the forest without proper
authorization. Whenever possible, use only plants propa
gated by nurseries.
Australian and Asian tree ferns are available from
many commercial plant nurseries. These species are in
vasive and grow more rapidly than Hawaiian tree ferns,
so they have the potential to be devastating to häpu‘u in
native habitats. These alien species have become popu
lar because of their “improved” horticultural character
istics, but from the point of view of safeguarding native
Hawaiian ecosystems, their use should not be encour
aged, and the native Hawaiian species should be used
Photo Copyright © Sharon Mau
This is a Rights-Managed Image protected by copyright.
My images do not belong to the public domain.
Images may not be reproduced, downloaded, distributed, transmitted, copied, reproduced in derivative works, displayed, published or broadcast by any means or in any form without prior written consent from the artist Sharon Mau - Mahalo
January 16th, 2013
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