'Awa mahakea is one of the more common varieties surviving in Hawaiian
forests. Pukui and Elbert's Hawaiian Dictionary defines mahakea as "a variety of kava, usually called makea." They also call `awa mahakea a "name for `awa akia, `awa makea at Ka'u, Hawai'i."
Its long internodes are often green but may sometimes be nearly black, depending on the age of the stalk and light conditions. The node is purple, but the leaf piko is green. It is well known as a fast grower, often producing a large root and stump within a couple of years.
Madis Botanicals found that the lateral roots of a two-year-old, regularly fertilized plant had 13% total kavalactones. Its chemotype was 426315. Interestingly, a bit of lateral root collected from an ancient mahakea contained only 9.2% total kavalactones. In general, roots of old forest `awa tend to be lower in kavalactones than roots of cultivated plants which have been fertilized.