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'PALANI' ('Palani Hou,' 'Palani ‘Ula')

Status: No Known Specimens

Background Information: Palani literally means "to stink; to smell sour; a detested person" and refers to a deeply colored surgeonfish (Acanthurus dussumieri) that is famous for its strong odor. Palani ‘Ula simply means "red ‘Palani.' The word hou is used in a variety of contexts, and can mean "new, fresh, again, do again, repeat," or "to stab, shove, poke, pierce," or "perspiration or sweat." All three names are said to be synonyms by various sources. Palani also indicates a variety of ‘uala.

Historical Description: The stalk is described as "purple with a deep olive cast when young, changing to reddish-yellow on exposure to the sun" by Moir and simply "purple" by Spencer. The sheaths are green and tended to split above the bud, and the leaves green. The flesh is very dark and very soft and juicy. The growth tends to be short in stature and erect. It is said to be the "parent" of, meaning it mutates into, the 'Moloka‘i ‘Akoki.'

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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. 
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