In the Garden

Rick Barboza


Fimbristylis cymosa

Description: This is a type of native sedge that forms short, rounded tufts up to 10 inches high. It has light green foliage with narrow, erect blades that are very stiff. When flowering, a cluster of brown spikelets form on a taller stem that rises slightly above the rest of the plant.

Mau'uki'aki'aki is available at the New Kapolei Home Depot for about $5.

Distribution: This indigenous plant is widespread throughout the Pacific. Here in Hawaii, it is found in coastal zones, usually in rocky areas but sometimes in sand.

Cultural uses: There are no known cultural uses for this plant.

Landscape uses and care: Mau'u'aki'aki is very strong and can tolerate the most harsh environments, including blazing sun, wind, salt and drought conditions. I have not seen any pests bother this plant, except for a horse on the property that's been feeding on it. Use it as an accent plant around rocks (just like in its natural habitat) or as a mass planting of ground cover like, as you would use mondo grass (which is not native, by the way), but in full sun.

Don't overwater. The best way to water mau'u'aki'aki is to give it a good soaking and avoid watering again until the soil is completely dry. Once the plant is established, water only when needed; sometimes, that's never.

Don't confuse this plant with another native grass called 'aki'aki. The latter's botanical name is Sporoblolus virginicus and they are very different. Although they grow in the same habitat, 'aki'aki prefers sandy areas while mau'u'aki'aki likes rocky areas, and they look nothing alike. What's odd is that mau'u is a general Hawaiian name for grasses, which would make you think that Sporobolus virginicus, the grass, would be called mau'u'aki'aki rather than just 'aki'aki and Fymbristylis cymosa, the sedge, would be called just 'aki'aki. Hmmm, go figure.

Rick Barboza is co-owner of Hui Ku Maoli Ola, a native Hawaiian plant nursery. Contact him at 259-6580 or e-mail

Do It Electric!

Gardening Calendar

E-mail to Features Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Calendars]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --