Canoe plants vital to the first Hawaiians and us as well

  • Banana plants produce abundant fruit and are beautiful as well. There are dozens of varieties grown in Hawaii from the hardy dwarf Cavendish to varieties that may reach 25 feet or more. (Voltaire Moise/Special to West Hawaii Today)

When the first Polynesians arrived in the Hawaiian Islands, there were very few plants that were of use as edibles. Initially, they probably lived on what could be taken from the sea like limu, fish, vana, opihi, squid, octopus and sea slugs just to mention a few. Of course, many birds flourished on the land. They and their eggs were fair game as well. Luckily the first people brought with them a great variety of plants like coconut, turmeric, sugar cane, bamboo, kalo, mountain apple, breadfruit and scores of banana varieties. They also brought pigs, chickens, dogs and rats. The animals had a great impact on the ecosystem, since no land mammals except the Hawaiian Hoary bat existed before the First People.