Hawaiian Name(s): ‘ahu‘awa, ‘ehu‘awa

Scientific Name: Cyperus javanicus

Vernacular Name: sedge

Family: Cyperaceae

Status: indigenous

Authority: Houtt.

Description: Tall perennials 50-150 cm tall.

Habitat Common in marshy areas, stream banks, loi kalo, rocky coasts, and cliffs 0-460 m on most main islands and Midway (Wagner et al. 1990:1420, as Mariscus javanicus).

Medicines: To treat ‘ea in children, ‘ahu‘awa stems and flowers are used with green kukui fruit sap (Aleurites moluccana). ‘Ahu‘awa is also used with ‘alaea clay, ‘awa root (Piper methysticum), and kō kea (white sugar cane, Saccharum officinarum) for ule hilo & waiki (gonorrhea). Fine sediment of ahu‘awa is mixed with lama kuahiwi for use on deep cuts, bruises, boils, cold sores; runny nose is treated by inhaling powdered ‘ahu‘awa (Chun 1994:13–14).

Non Medicinal Uses: This indigenous plant was often cultivated. The fibers were made into two/three ply cordage used for lashing in house construction (Abbott 1992:62); the cordage also used in temporary fishing nets and for holding ‘umeke (Abbott 1992:63, 91). Some say it was good for deep water fishing line and canoe rigging, too; the leaves also used to strain ‘awa drink and medicines (Chun 1994:13).

Specific gravity of wood: unknown

Famous Locations:


`Ōlelo Noeau: [I] Aia aku la paha i Waikiki i ka ‘imi ‘ahu‘awa. Perhaps gone to Waikiki to seek the ‘ahu‘awa sedge. Gone where disappointment is met. A play on ahu (heap) and ‘awa (sour). [II] O Honu‘apo aku no ia o kahi o ka ‘ahu‘awa. That is Honu‘apo where the ‘ahu‘awa grows. A Ka‘u saying about disappointment. The ‘ahu‘awa was much used as fiber for straining ‘awa. A play on hoka (to strain, to be disappointed).

Dye Color and Parts:

Kino lau:

Location on Bishop Museum Kalihi Campus: Next to Castle Bldg

Propagation Information: Native Plants Hawaii.

Seed: Seed length approximately 1.5 mm. Photograph: B.Kennedy. Species: Cyperus javanicus.
Click for image