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'HAU' ('Kāni‘o,' 'Lele,' '‘Ōni‘oni‘o')

Status: No Known Specimens

Background Information: Hau in this instance refers not the common low-land hibiscus tree (Hibiscus tiliaceus) but to mother-of-pearl shells. Ka‘aiakamanu states the quivering juice of this is reminiscent of the shimmering colors seen in the smooth inner surface of the shells. This cane was commonly used in divination, reading the patterns in the shifting colors. Kāni‘o and ‘ōni‘oni‘o literally mean "striped or streaked,” usually crosswise rather than lengthwise, or “spotted.” This name is aptly applied to the ‘o‘opu nōpili (Sicyopterus stimpsoni), a native stream fish with distinct white stripes down its side. 'Hau' is said to be/have been a hardy cane with a dark red stalk with green stripes that boasted a "many-colored pattern" or "streaked with many colors." A single reference equates this cane to 'Lele,' contradicting several sources that equate 'Lele' to 'Manulele.' 'Lele' refers to an unknown type of fish, and a tall variety of wild banana that was formerly offered to the gods (at ahu lele) and also used for love magic which would “fly” (lele) to the gods.

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Status: No Known Specimens

Background Information: ‘Ainakea literally means “white (kea) pith/bagasse (‘aina)” or “white land (‘?ina).” According to Fornander this name refers to a particular episode in Hawaiian mythology: K?‘ula and K?ne, two powerful akua, practiced their sorcery on the people of Honua‘ula, Maui, and left the bodies of the dead strewn about and exposed. The duo added further insult by snacking on sugarcane grown by the victims to quench their thirst; since this time the cane has been called ‘Ainakea in reference to the white bones left bleaching in the sun. However, many l?‘au lapa‘au sources indicate that the name refers to the flesh of the cane, which is said to be the whitest of all Hawaiian canes – a particularly rare trait for a dark-skinned variety. An alternative name, Laenihi, refers generally to high-headed labroid fish of the genera Hemipteronotus and Iniistius. Another name, P?kea, is a quantifying term applied to Laenihi that refers to a whitish coloration and was used to denote a specific species of fish. ‘Ainakea was one of the few canes used in medicinal concoctions by the kahuna h?h?, and was important in the treatments for p?‘ao‘ao, ‘ea, hilo, and waiki.

Historical Description: ‘Ainakea is said to be [DE1] one of the prettiest Hawaiian canes, similar in appearance to ‘?hi‘a when it is young but lightening in color as it grows. It was often said to be one of the best-producing native cane varieties and was popular cane home gardens, particularly in dry and lowland areas.

Stalk Color


The stalks are described by Moir as “maroon-red and striped with apple-green when young, and changing to purplish-red and yellow when mature”; by Fornander as “red with long white stripes”; and by Spencer as “a ribbon cane, green and purple.” Alternatively, Ka‘aiakamanu compares it to Manulele (a striped cane), and states that the stalks were “dark reddish as the p?polo liquid.”


Authored by: Noa Kekuewa Lincoln.  
Please properly cite any use of information or graphics from this page. 

Lincoln, N. (2017) Kō: An Ethnobotanical Guide to Hawaiian Sugarcane Varieties. 
Retrieved from: http://cms.ctahr.hawaii.edu/cane/Home.aspx