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There is a fantastic new book out:
Hawaiian 'Awa
Views of an Ethnobotanical Treasure
Edited by Ed Johston and Helen Rogers
Association for Hawaiian 'Awa
The below has been reproduced with permission

Aloha, Cliff

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Mahakea


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'Awa Mahakea was one of the more common 'awa cultivars surviving in Hawaiian forests. Pukui and Elbert's Hawaiian Dictionary defines the "'awa mahakea" as 'a name for 'awa akea, 'awa makea at Ka'u, Hawai'i" (1986, 34).

Its long internodes are a dull green with purple shading at the bottom, sometimes nearly black depending on the age of the stalk and the light conditions. The node is purple and the leaf piko is green. It is known as a fast, strong, erect grower, often producing a large root and stump within a couple of years.

When the Hawaiian cultivars underwent DNA fingerprinting, Mahakea was one of only two Hawaiian cultivars showing distinctive bands for any of the 21 pairs of primers assayed. Mahakea's eleven distinctive bands (out of a total of 1149, or 0.9%) indicate that it varies somewhat genetically from the other Hawaiian cultivars, which, except for the cultivar Papa kea, showed no difference from one another (Lebot et a!. 1999, 414).

Vincent Lebot speculates that "cultivar Omoa collected in the Marquesas seems to be related to O'ahu 241 from Hawaii" (Lebot 1991, 197). The morphological description of O'ahu 241 matches that of Mahakea. (At the time that Lebot labeled this accession O'ahu 241, no attempt was being made to relate the cultivars to their traditional names.) If, as is believed, all Hawaiian 'awa varieties trace their ancestry back to a single plant that arrived with the early settlers from the Marquesas, it could be interesting to compare Omoa closely with Mahakea —perhaps Omoa was the ancestor of Hawai'i's 'awa varieties.

Five different Mahakea plants of different ages and growing in various conditions were analyzed for the Economic Botany paper. In the table below, {Please refer to the book for his table } note the variation in the total kavalactone percentages for the five samples. The table sheds light on the ways the growing environment can affect the total amount of kavalactones that develop. Roots of old forest 'awa tend to be lower in kavalactones than roots of cultivated plants that have been fertilized, irrigated, and cared for. Growing in full sun can also increase the amount of kavalactones eventually present in the lateral root. 'Awa growers have taken note of findings like these and adjusted their growing practices accordingly.

Reproduced with permission from
Hawaiian 'Awa
Views of an Ethnobotanical Treasure
Edited by Ed Johston and Helen Rogers
Association for Hawaiian 'Awa
Hilo, Hi
©2007

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