’Olena highly valued in Pacific
Description: An herbaceous plant with dark green leaves up to 4 feet long that rise out of dark yellow to orange rhizomes -- most people call these roots, but they are actually underground stems.
Emerging from the center of the leaves is an upright blossom that resembles a single large white -- or sometimes purplish-white -- ginger flower but is really made up of many smaller flowers.
This "big flower" is fragrant and easily distinguished among other members of the ginger family. Like many other ginger plants, 'olena is also deciduous, meaning that it loses its leaves, or "dies back," for a few months every year. So don't be disappointed when this happens; you didn't kill the plant, it's just resting and will pop up again later.
Distribution: 'Olena is a Polynesian-introduced plant usually found in mesic valleys in areas once inhabited by early Hawaiians. Although uncommon today, this plant can sometimes be purchased at plant sales and Hawaiian functions and is now available at Home Depot for less than $6.
Cultural uses: This plant is highly valued in Hawaii and many other parts of the Pacific for its many uses. The pounded rhizomes are strained and the liquid used to treat ailments such as ear or respiratory infections, as well as to spice up food. Its rich yellow color is also used to color food and dye kapa.
In other cultures this plant is used to color and spice curry dishes.
Landscape uses and care: 'Olena does best in partially shaded or full-sun areas in rich moist soil. Few pests are known to bother this plant.
Place it along other perennials because, as mentioned above, this plant is deciduous and loses its leaves for two to three months. Don't be discouraged by this; 'olena is a truly beautiful and prized Hawaiian plant. It deserves to be in more of Hawaii's gardens.
co-owns Hui Ku Maoli Ola, a native Hawaiian plant nursery, with Matt Schirman. Contact him at 295-7777 or e-mail Rick.firstname.lastname@example.org