In the Garden

Rick Barboza


Eleocharis calva
Spike rush

Description: A small rush with narrow sheaths up to about 3 feet tall ending in a sharp point. The light brown-gray flowers are small spikelets usually making up the upper portion of the sheath.

Kohekohe is available at both the Iwilei and Pearl City Home Depots for about $6.

This plant resembles the more popular makaloa but differs in that the spikelets conform to the shape of the top of the sheath, whereas the makaloa's spikelets jut out to the side near the top of the sheath.

Distribution: This is an indigenous plant found throughout the United States. In Hawaii it is found on the margins of ponds and marshes on the islands of Kauai, Oahu and Kahoolawe.

Cultural uses: Although similar in appearance to makaloa, this plant is not used to make hats or fine mats. There is no known cultural use for this plant.

Landscape use and care: The spike rush 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 underwater. Put the whole pot in the pond and weigh it down with some rocks. It also does well in wet areas of your garden. Few pests bother this plant, making it easy to care for.

Also: There are two native species in the genus Eleocharis: this one mentioned, and E. obtusa, both called kohekohe or pipiwai.

Rick Barboza co-owns Hui Ku Maoli Ola, a native Hawaiian plant nursery, with Matt Schirman. Contact him at 259-6580 or e-mail rickbarboza@aol.com. "In the Garden" is a Friday feature.

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