POSTED: 2 NOVEMBER 2005 - 10:30pm HST

Pohuehue: Beach Morning-Glory

Flowers of the Pohuehue vine blossoming on a sand dune

Birds and Plants of Kauai:
by Linda Pascatore on 2 November 2005

There are three types of native plants we will cover here: Endemic, Indigenous, and Polynesian. Endemic plants evolved in the Hawaiian Islands and do not grow naturally anywhere else. Indigenous plants got here naturally from other locations. They were originally brought by birds, wind, or the ocean before the first Polynesians arrived. Polynesian plants are the canoe plants that the native Hawaiians brought with them. They were primarily food plants, or those that had practical or cultural uses.

This week's featured plant is the pohuehue, or beach morning-glory. It is found along the shoreline. It is an indigenous plant, and its seeds are dispersed in ocean water. It is a hardy, salt and water resistant plant which is widespread on Hawaii's beaches, and other tropical beaches around the world.

The pohuehue is a woody vine with stems up to 15 feet long and a deep tap root. If the stems are broken by wind or surf, new roots can develop at the nodes along the stems. This vining structure with many root holds allows the pohuehue to hold sand dunes together and prevent beach erosion.

The purple or pink morning glory flowers are trumpet shaped and lie close to the ground. The flower petals open only in the cooler morning hours. The leaves are 2-3 inches long, double-lobed, leathery, and shaped like a goat's foot. The vine often grows right down to the high tide line.

The native Hawaiians used the seeds, roots and leaves as a cathartic and as a poultice for skin ailments and broken bones. Ancient surfers slapped the stems of the pohuehue on the ocean and chanted to ensure good waves that day.

Pohuehue growing on rocky lava cliff side in Hawaii

A Pocket Guide to Hawaii's Trees and Shrubs, Mutual Publishing, 1998.

Hawaii Nature Focus, Kiluauea

For more on Hawaiian Nature see below:
Island Breath: Hawaiian Nature Menu
The Flora and Fauna of Hawaii
14 October 2005 - 7:00am

Moli: The Laysan Albatross is a seabird found commonly on Kauai and the Northwest Hawaiian Islands
1 December 2005 - 3:30pm

Pueo: The Hawaiian Owl This grassland owl was revered by the ancient Hawaiians as the protector


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