The 'awa variety that the Hawaiians called Papa kea is described by Handy as being like the Papa eleele as to intemodes and habit, but has light green stalk (1940, 202). He also mentions that this cultivar is probably the same as the 'awa called Ke'oke'o. Kamakau tells us that Papa kea is one of the low varieties that "grow to be very handsome and decorative" ( 1976, 41).
In recent years, we have called this cultivar by the name "'Apu" but now believe, thanks to Kawika Winter, that there is stronger evidence for it to be called Papa kea. 'Apu seems to have been described by only one informant, the Rev. Oliver P. Emerson (1903, 131), who said its joints "are short and green" and that Makeas are lighter. However, none of the other Hawaiian cultivars could be described as lighter than the cultivar pictured on the opposite page.
The Hawaiian Dictionary says that 'awa Papa kea (or Ke'oke'o) is "the commonest variety" (Pukui and Elbert 1986, 34). It thus seems likely that Papa kea would be one of the cultivars to survive to the present.
Its growth habit is prostrate. Rarely reaching five feet in height, Papa kea is an attractive and manage.able plant.
Plants of this cultivar have been found in old 'awa fields in Puna. Joel Lau collected it in 1983 by a tributary of the Kamo'oali'i stream system in Kane'ohe, O'ahu. It has also been cultivated in the collection donated by Vincent Lebot at the National Tropical Botanical Garden site in Hana, Maui, where the cultivar was labeled O'ahu 237.
When the Hawaiian cultivars underwent DNA fingerprinting for the 1999 Economic Botany paper, Papa kea (labeled "'Apu") was one of only two Hawaiian cultivars to he identified as slightly different genetically from the other Hawaiian cultivars. It exhibited eight distinctive bands (out of a possible 1149 or 0.7 percent difference) over three of the 21 pairs of primers assayed.
This cultivar is very susceptible to the shothole disease (Phoma sp.), and every precaution should be taken to prevent it. See Chapter 9 for more information on controlling this fungal disease in 'awa.
Reproduced with permission from
Views of an Ethnobotanical Treasure
Edited by Ed Johston and Helen Rogers
Association for Hawaiian 'Awa