In The Garden
Makaloa prized for value in weaving mats
Hawaiian mat-making flat sedge
Indigenous: All Hawaii except Lanai and Kahoolawe
A small rounded sedge with narrow culms (hollow stems) up to about 2 feet tall, ending in a sharp point. The flowers are small spikelets that usually come down about an inch or two from the tip, protrude from the side and are light brown-gray.
This is an indigenous plant found throughout subtropical regions worldwide. In Hawaii it is most likely found in coastal areas and along the margins of ponds and marshes on the islands of Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui, the Big Island and Laysan in the northwestern part of the Hawaiian island chain.
This plant is highly valued by Hawaiians for its use in weaving mats and, more recently, hats. Even the author Robert Louis Stevenson wrote that there were no mats finer than the makaloa mats of Hawaii during his travels throughout the Pacific.
Landscape use and care:
This plant looks great in ponds and can be used as an accent around rock features. It does best in full sun, and its roots can tolerate being fully submerged in water. Just put the whole pot in the pond and weigh it down with some rocks. It also does well planted in areas of your garden that for whatever reason continuously stay wet.
Few pests bother this plant, which makes taking care of it that much easier. It is available at Home Depot in Pearl City and Honolulu for about $8.
Our lowland streams and marshes are vital habitats for many native flora and fauna and are essential in the prevention of floods. This plant, along with many other native sedges and rushes, shrubs and ground covers, are main components of this ecotype, which is now dominated by alien plants and animals. More work needs to be done to re-establish these zones as native habitats not only for the plants' and animals' sakes, but to reduce and prevent the threat of lowland flooding.
Rick Barboza co-owns Hui Ku Maoli Ola, a native Hawaiian plant nursery, with Matt Schirman. Contact him at 295-7777 or e-mail Rick.CK.Barboza@gmail.com