Photo of a Loulu hiwa in the Merwin Palm Forest by Larry Cameron
Native to Hawai‘i, the Pritchardia martii, known as “Loulu hiwa” in Hawaiian, enjoys moist to wet forest habitats in valleys and on exposed ridges and cliffs up to 2,700 feet in elevation. Loulu hiwa is endemic to Oʻahu (the Koʻolau Mountains and southern Waiʻanae Mountains, specificaly) and can grow up to 30 feet tall.
Loulu hiwa is considered one of the more common Loulu species with estimates of up to 10,000 individuals found in the wild. Loulu hiwa has a canopy spread of 8-10 feet and is slow growing, to a maximum height of 12 feet. They are shorter, stockier palms that are described as being “among the world’s most beautiful small palms” Bees and other insects in great numbers are attracted to the yellow flowers. After flowering, large roundish to olive-shaped greenish-blackish fruits are produced in generous amounts.
This species has been given the specific name Loulu hiwa, which means “dark loulu” in Hawaiian, referring to its fruits.
In fact, the fruits of the Loulu, called hāwane or wāhane, were peeled and eaten by early Hawaiians. They collected and ate the young fruits, which had soft interior flesh and tasted similar to coconut. The fronds, or leaves, called lau hāwane were used by the early Hawaiians for thatching and more recently as plaiting such as papale (hats) and fans.
There are four Loulu hiwa growing in the Merwin Palm Collection today.
Want to “virtually explore” the Merwin Palm Collection? Search through our archive of Palm Facts of the Week, featuring palms hand-planted by W.S Merwin. To search through the Online Merwin Palm Database, visit this link.
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