Papa 'ele'ele is one of the most desirable cultivars. It has short, deep purple to green intemodes and beige nodes. Its leaf has a dark piko. The growth habit is prostrate.
Historian Samuel Kamakau mentions this cultivar: "The low-growing papa 'ele'ele and papa kea varieties of 'awa grow to be very handsome and decorative" ( 1976, 41). Kaaiakamanu and Akina reported that it resembles 'awa Mo' i, but "its segments are considerably shorter. . . and it grows wildly, its branches scattering here and there among the shrubs"
Papa 'ele'ele is sometimes called "the Queen's 'awa" or "Lu'ukia." It was the dominant cultivar found in an area of Waipi'o Valley that some valley residents call the "Queen's 'awa patch." The name Lu'ukia belonged to the wife of the ruler 'Olopana, and, according to tradition, she lived for a time in Waipi'o, perhaps in the 1300s (Cordy 2000, 141).
In addition, this 'awa is sometimes called "Alia 3." It has also been referred to as "Mo'i," but that is now thought to be incorrect. The variety we are now calling "Mo'i" is described earlier.
Chun's compilation of early medicinal lore lists Papa 'ele'ele among the varieties especially useful in treating urinary conditions (1994, 1:53-54).
This variety has been found growing wild in Waipi'o and Waimanu valleys on the island of Hawai'i, as well as in Kipahulu Valley on Maui.
Some Papa 'ele'ele plants have had very high kavalactone levels. The first sample of dried lateral roots in the chart below shows 20.8 percent total kavalactones, with kavain at 6.69 percent.
For the home garden, where space may be limited, consider this variety for the following advantages:
Reproduced with permission from
- low-growing and wind-resistant
- stout, sturdy stalks
- disease resistance
- it makes a great drink.
Views of an Ethnobotanical Treasure
Edited by Ed Johston and Helen Rogers
Association for Hawaiian 'Awa