Olonā (Touchardia latifolia Gaud.) : Cultivating the wild populations for sustainable use and revitalization of cultural Hawaiian practices

Wichman, Juliana Mikioi
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Botany Department, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Olonā (Touchardia latifolia Gaudich.) is an endemic Hawaiian plant used by the Hawaiians to make some of the strongest cordage in the world. Within the ahupua'a of Hā'ena on Kaua'i, there are wild populations of olonā growing however, no one knows how to manage or prepare the fibers. Due to the mission of Limahuli Garden to perpetuate traditional cultural knowledge as well as to grow and perpetuate native Hawaiian cultural plants, a long-term project to cultivate and teach community members sustainable use of olonā will not only strengthen the community, but perpetuate a traditional Hawaiian skill, which is slowing being lost. Within the scope of this experiment, I specifically looked at three populations to determine which growing conditions produced the strongest cordage. I hypothesized that Limahuli Valley has cultivatable olonā and ideal growing condition would produce plants that had stronger fibers. Collecting individuals from three different growing conditions, a modified tensile strength test was designed and two ply cordage of 25 cm long, comprised of 6, 12 and 24 individual fibers refuted my hyposthesis, but lead me to re- hypothesize that stem diameter (age of plant) rather than environmental growing conditions effect the fiber strength. I concluded that Limahuli Valley has a good population of olonā, which if managed properly, stronger fibers can be obtained and lead to the establishment of a successful community population.
Hawaiians--Ethnobotany--Periodicals., Ethnobotany--Hawaii--Periodicals., Plants, Medicinal--Periodicals., Ethnobotany--Periodicals.
Wichman JM. 2012. Olonā (Touchardia latifolia Gaud.): Cultivating the wild populations for sustainable use and revitalization of cultural Hawaiian practices. Ethnobotany Research & Applications 10: 247-252.
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