Hawaiian Names with Diacritics
- ʻĒkaha kuahiwi
- Ekaha kuahiwi
- Bird's nest fern
- Bird's-nest fern
- Neottopteris nidus
- Thamnopteris nidus
Endangered Species Status
Plant Form / Growth Habit
- Non-Woody, Clumping
Mature Size, Height (in feet)
- Fern/Fern-like, Tall, Greater than 3
Mature Size, Width
ʻĒkaha can grow to a height and width size to four feet or more.
Long lived (Greater than 5 years)
- Specimen Plant
Additional Landscape Use Information
These showy, but rather slow growing, ferns can be used as accents under trees in shade to partial sun locations. They also do well in pots and hanging baskets in shaded areas such as on a north- or east-facing lanaʻi. These ferns can be grown as container plants indoors and even used in a bathroom. 
ʻĒkaha will tolerate some sun but the leaves may get scorched and look unsightly. They will usually recover, sometimes slowly, especially if new growth (emerging fronds) has not been badly affected and plants transferred to a shadier area. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]
Use on the ground (terrestrial), on rocks or in crevices (lithophyte), or on tree branches or in crotches of the branches as an epiphyte. Smaller ferns can easily be held in place on the branches with twine or a nylon stocking and should be kept moist until established. Larger ferns will need more support and can topple in windy locations if not properly secured. Place in amongst large boulders with enough space for the fronds to showcase themselves. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]
Plant Produces Flowers
Additional Plant Texture Information
Fronds are without indentations. They have smooth edges.
- Dark Green
- Medium Green
13-13-13 slow release fertilizer every six months for plants in pots. For larger potted ferns showing poor color or not producing crosiers (fiddleheads or emerging fronds) use a complete fertilizer at half the recommended strength. Do not till solid fertilizers into soil since ferns have a shallow root system. 
If plants are in trees or on the ground, the dead brown fronds which hang down from the plant can be trimmed away or left as a natural forming skirt. Potted plants usually look best if spent fronds are trimmed away. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]
Soil must be well drained
- Full sun
- Partial sun
Additional Lighting Information
Plants appear to be at their best in shadier conditions.
To showcase these ferns, space at perhaps four or more feet a part. For a denser setting, stagger the plants closer in an odd-numbered planting arrangement of three, five, seven, and so on. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]
Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)
- Less than 150, 0 to 50 (Dry)
- Less than 150, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
- Less than 150, Greater than 100 (Wet)
- 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)
- 150 to 1000, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
- 150 to 1000, Greater than 100 (Wet)
- 1000 to 1999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
- 1000 to 1999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
- 1000 to 1999, Greater than 100 (Wet)
- 2000 to 2999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
- 2000 to 2999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
- 2000 to 2999, Greater than 100 (Wet)
Additional Habitat Information
In the Hawaiian Islands, ʻēkaha is found as a terrestrial, epiphyte or a lithophyte (on rocks) in dry and mesic and into wetter forests from 130 to about 2500 feet  on all the Main Islands except Niʻihau and Kahoʻolawe. It can been seen on the lateral branches or crotch of large both native (e.g. koa) and non-native (e.g. monkey pod) trees.
This beautiful fern is also native to Polynesia, tropical Asia and Australia east to Mauritius and Madagascar.
ʻĒkaha (Asplenium nidus) belongs to one of the largest of the fern families Apleniaceae or the Spleenwort family.
There are 28 species of Asplenium ferns native to the Hawaiian Islands, 14 of which are endemic. 
The genus name Asplenium is from the Latin asplenum, spleenwort. Ancient Greeks believed that this fern could cure spleen diseases.
The Latin specific epithet nidus, nest, in reference to the nest-like appearance of this fern.
ʻĒkaha kuahiwi means "mountain ʻēkaha."
The bird's-nest fern or ʻēkaha (Asplenium nidus) is one of the most recognizable of all ferns with its unmistakable large wide fronds visually similar to banana leaves. Another distinctive characteristic are the numerous long parallel rows of sori (fern spores) blanketing the underside of the fronds giving it a rusty look.
On Oʻahu (southern Koʻolau Mts.) and on Maui in dry to mesic forests, very young ʻēkaha* is frequently seen with another indigenous fern ʻoheʻohe (Haplopteris elongata). The long narrow fronds and rhizomes of ʻoheʻohe appear to look like aerial roots coming from the accompanying ʻēkaha. It is not clear if ʻoheʻohe is growing as an epiphyte on ʻēkaha or the reverse.
* A juvenile form of ʻēkaha is called ʻēkahakaha.
Early Hawaiian Use
The dark midribs of ʻēkaha fronds were woven into lau hala mats and other objects of lau hala to provide pattern and color contrast. [6,7]
A liquid made from ʻēkaha leaf shoots and mixed with other plants was used to treat children and infants with ʻea or thrush and pāʻaoʻao, a disease which physically weakens.  Shoots with other plants were pounded and liquid squeezed into mouths of children with mouth sores or general weakness.  An ointment was also made from the leaves and mixed with other ingredients and liquid was used for ulcers or body sores (pūhō kolokolo kokoʻole). [3,5]
ʻĒkaha were ceremonially planted to cover residual stumps after a tree had been felled for canoe (waʻa) making and before it was shaped with an adze. 
Though a common house plant, most sold in the U.S. are not Asplenium nidus but rather the similar looking Asplenium australasicum. This is a great reason to acquire plants called "bird's-nest ferns" from reputable native plant sources.
There are several nice cultivars usually based on leaf shapes, some of these being quite spectacular!
 Kay Lynch, Lāʻau Hawaiʻi.
 "Ferns of Hawaiʻi" by Kathy Valier, page 62.
 Hawaiian Ethnobotany Database Online http://www2.bishopmuseum.org/ethnobotanydb/index.asp [accessed 12/18/09]
 "Container Gardening in Hawaii" by Janice Crowl, page 53.
 "Hawaiian Herbs of Medicinal Value, by D.M. Kaaiakamanu & J.K. Akina, page 22.
 "In Gardens of Hawaii" by Marie C. Neal, page 21.
 "Ethnobotany of Hawaii" by Beatrice H. Krauss, page 84.
 "Current Status of Ferns and Lycophytes" by Amanda L. Vernon & Tom A. Ranker, pages 96-98.
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