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'Awapuhi

Awapuhi - wild ginger Common name: `awapuhi-kuahiwi, `opuhi

English name:

Wild ginger
Family name:
Zingiberaceae
Scientific name:
Zingiber zerumbet (L.) Smith
Introduced by:
Early Polynesians (this was part of the
original species introduced by the Polynesians as they came to Hawaii.)
Origin:
Native of India
See Also...

  'Awa
  Noni
  'Ohia'a'ai
  'Olena

DISTRIBUTION

Polynesian introduced, a native of India, distributed eastward through Polynesia.

HABITAT

Awapuhi grows best in lower parts of damp, open forests and can form continuous ground cover. It needs warm, wet and shaded places. It prefers fairly open, darkish regions on windward sides of our islands where rainfall is plentiful. It often grows on abandoned taro terraces near Hawaiian village sites.

CHARACTERISTICS

Stem: The awapuhi forms clumps of 1 to 2 feet tall plants, has large, aromatic, knobbed underground stems (rhizomes).
Leaves:
It has about 12 narrow leaves 4 to 8 inches long by 2 inches wide, arranged alternately along the vegetative stems.
Flower: In late summer, a foot tall flowering stem rises from the rhizome to form a head inflorescence. This flower cluster is oblong in shape, consisting of overlapping bracts (modified leaves) green, tinged with pink to red, which hide small inconspicuous yellowish flowers that open a few at a time. The mature flower head contains sudsy, slimy juice that Hawaiians used for hair shampooing or for quenching thirst. Awapuhi becomes dormant in the winter for about 3 to 4 months after flowering, with the leaves turning yellow and dying. New leaves form from the rhizomes in spring.

ECONOMIC VALUES

Hawaiians used the awapuhi rhizomes to scent their tapa. Medicinally it was used for bruises, cuts and sores; for headaches, toothaches, ringworm and other skin diseases, for achy joints, and for sprains. Several medicinal recipes are in Beatrice H. Krauss' Plants in Hawaiian Medicine 2001 book.

 

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http://apdl.kcc.hawaii.edu/~ahupuaa/botany/medicinal/awapuhi.htm
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Last Modified: 14-Dec-2010 13:23 HST