Updated: May 5, 2021

Aloha mai Kākou! This past week was earth day, a day where people recognize the importance of this land we live on and how we need to be doing our part to make this a better place. Here in Hawaii we have a saying “Mālama Ka ‘Āina” which means to respect the land. The Hawaiians believed that if you took care of the land, the land would in turn take care of you. From food to canoes there was no shortage of what the land provided for the Hawaiians, and our islands are full of rich history and mo’olelo (moh-oh lel-oh) or legends that go along with them. One such plant was called the Naupaka.

Naupaka kahakai CC Forest Starr & Kim Starr

Look to the Sandy Shores

Chances are that if you have been to the beaches in Hawaii, then you have probably seen small trees that grow only half a flower. Those are our Naupaka, they are commonly found down by the beaches as the waxy substance on their leaves allows them to be resistant to salt. In fact many locals know that if you take the leaves, crush it up, and rub the shredded leaves in your swimming goggles they won't fog up while you are in the ocean! The Naupaka plants in the early Hawaiian days also held many other practical uses, the plant grew edible fruits that have proven to be helpful in times of famine. The bark was also used to help as pegs for the canoes.

Interestingly enough there are 2 variations of the naupaka plant. One that grows up in the mountains (Naupaka Kuahiwi) and one that grows down along the beaches (Naupaka Kahakai). Thanks to the buoyancy and salt resistance the Naupaka Kahakai can traverse the ocean finding new places to sprout up along the Polynesian islands. However unlike its counterpart the Naupaka Kuahiwi can only be found along the mountains of the Hawaiian islands; though most commonly found on the islands of Kaua’i and O’ahu.