Cibotium glaucum

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Hāpuʻu
  • Hāpuʻu pulu
  • Hāpuʻupuʻu
  • Pepeʻe

Hawaiian Names

  • Hapuu
  • Hapuu pulu
  • Hapuupuu
  • Pepee

Common Names

  • Hawaiian tree fern


  • Cibotium st.-johnii
  • Dicksonia glauca

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Partially Woody / Shrub-like

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Fern/Fern-like, Tall, Greater than 3

Mature Size, Width

This tree fern has an 8 to over 20-foot spread.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Screening

Additional Landscape Use Information

Hāpuʻu pulu is perhaps the most commonly used of our native tree ferns in the landscapes, most likely due to its availability and its low elevation tolerances to plantings even near sea level. It is an excellent understory plant for the landscape to help control erosion.

Plant hāpuʻu pulu in slightly acidic, well drained soil with ample moisture.

Use in place of the highly invasive Australian tree fern (Cyathea cooperi) which escapes gardens into forests and competes with native plants.

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Coarse

Additional Plant Texture Information

Hāpuʻu pulu fronds can grow to well over 20 feet long.

Leaf Colors

  • Light Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

The fronds have cobweb-like hairs which range in color from mustard to reddish brown.

The undersides of the fronds have a distinctive glaucous (light blue grayish cast) and are usually clothed with white fine (arachnoid) hairs.

This hāpuʻu has an unkempt, woolly mass of golden hair at the base of the fronds. [9]

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Hāpuʻu pulu is known to be eaten by feral pigs. Termites are a potential problem.

leaf Growth Requirements


Apply a 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. [1]

Pruning Information

Prune old fronds in landscape settings for a clean appearance. Do not prune emerging fronds (fiddles).

Water Requirements

  • Moist
  • Wet

Additional Water Information

Hāpuʻu pulu can tolerate both moist and wet conditions.

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun
  • Shade

Additional Lighting Information

Hāpuʻu pulu can tolerate full sun in a north to northwest direction in lower elevations, but does best in partial shade conditions. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]


  • Wind


  • Cinder
  • Organic


Hāpuʻu pulu is very slow growing, with only about an inch a year. Because of this wild harvesting and people resorting using invasive trees ferns are the biggest threats to these tree ferns. [9]

Hāpuʻu is very slow growing. Get the trunks at the height that you will need for your landscape.* In other words, do not expect to get a 4-foot hāpuʻu hoping that it will grow to 6 feet in your lifetime. [15]


* Local garden stores carried 4- and 6-foot hāpuʻu trunks up until recently due to Little fire ants or LFA (Wasmannia auropunctata). To avoid further the spread of LFA on to the island of Oʻahu, as of late 2013/early 2014 stores have banned importation from Hawaiʻi Island where LFA are occur in numbers. Even so, LFA have been found in some nurseries on Oʻahu.


leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Kauaʻi
  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui
  • Hawaiʻi

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • 150 to 1000, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 150 to 1000, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 1000 to 1999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 1000 to 1999, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 2000 to 2999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 2000 to 2999, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 3000 to 3999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 3000 to 3999, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 4000 to 4999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 4000 to 4999, Greater than 100 (Wet)


  • Epiphyte
  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

This hāpuʻu occurs in mesic to wet forests from about 985 to over 5575 feet. Occasionally, they can be found as low as around 330 feet.

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

Cibotium belong to the family Cibotiaceae. [12] Worldwide there are nine species of Cibotium, four of which are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. [16]


The generic name Cibotium is from the Greek kibotion, diminutive of kibotos, a box or casket, in reference to the indusium, a part of the fern blade that covers the sorus (spores).

The specific name is from Latin glaucus, bluish green or gray, in reference to the underneath color of the fronds.

Hawaiian Name:

The Hawaiian species are best known by the name hāpuʻu collectively, though the early Hawaiians assigned names to different species.

In modern times to help with the proper pronunciation, hāpuʻu should be spelled with a kahakō over the "a."  [13,14]

Background Information

Wild pigs (puaʻa) have had a severe effect on hāpuʻu populations in some areas, eating the entire starchy inner core thus destroying the plants and leaving a trough for breeding mosquitoes. [13]

Some refer to hāpuʻu pulu (Cibotium glaucum) as the "blond" or "female tree fern." [2] However, hāpuʻu are not separated as male or female.

The pulu ("wool") is used as nest lining by Hawaiian honeycreepers. [13]

Early Hawaiian Use


Hawaiians, both long ago as well as more recent times, ate the uncoiled fronds (fiddles), which were considered delicious when boiled. The starchy core, though, was famine food. [3,8] But it was considered the most important food in lean times and one trunk may contain 50-70 pounds of almost pure starch. [4] It was prepared by peeling the young fronds or placing the entire trunk with the starchy center in an ʻimu or in steam vents at the volcano. [10]

The saying was "He hāpuʻu ka ʻai he ai make" (If the hāpuʻu is the food, it is the food of death).


The pulu, the soft woolly material around the base of the fronds, was used by early Hawaiians for dressing wounds and embalming bodies.

Modern Use

The export of pulu, particularly from hāpuʻu pulu (Cibotium glaucum), had a negative impact on the Hawaiian forests. Pulu was gathered for pillow and matress stuffing material. [11] Tall hāpuʻu were cut down to gather the pulu more easily. From 1851 to 1884, several hundred thousand pounds of pulu were collected annually from the Kīlauea region on Hawaiʻi Island and shipped to North America with a peak in 1862 of over 738,000 lbs. From 50-75 people worked at the "Pulu Factory" in now Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, between Makaopuhi and Nāpau Crater. After 1865, the exporting decreased until finally in the 1880's superior suffing materials replaced pulu. [5,7] Then around 1920, a brief period of demand for the starchy cores of hāpuʻu for commercial laundry and cooking starch surfaced. [5]

The onslaught seriously altered the native forests by removing the understory hāpuʻu and thus making room for alien species to invade the forests. Pulu gathers often would often kill the entire plant for the pulu on the top. [5]

Young stems were formerly used to make hats.

Recent use of hāpuʻu has been as orchid and anthurium growing media. The outer fibrous part has been used to line or form baskets for plants.

Hāpuʻu (Cibotium spp.) have been used in home and commercial landscapes for many years. As a result some fine specimens seen in older residents and commercial establishments are decades old now. A testimony to their resilience as a faithful and time-tested landscape plant.

Additional References

[1] Kay Lynch, Lāʻau Hawaiʻi
[2] The Panewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens [Accessed 8/4/08]
[3] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice H. Krauss, page 15.

[4] "Native Planters in Old Hawaii--Their Life, Lore, & Environment" by E. S. Handy and Elizabeth green Handy, page 234.

[5] "Alteration of Native Hawaiian Vegetation--Effects of Humans, Their Activities and Introductions" by Linda W. Cuddihy & Charles P. Stone, page 39.

[6] Hawaiian Dictionaries online [Accessed 10/2/09]

[7] Hawaii Nature Notes, Vol. 5, November 1953, No. 2 [Accessed 10/2/09]

[8] "Arts and Crafts of Hawaii" by Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter H. Buck), page 6.

[9] "Green" Vol. 2, No. 3, page 44.

[10] "Resource Units in Hawaiian Culture" by Donald D. Kilolani Mitchell, page 128.

[11] "Lāʻau Hawaiʻi: Traditional Hawaiian Uses of Plants" by Isabella Aiona Abbott, page 74.

[12] Taxonomic changes in Hawaiian ferns and lycophytes. Records of the Hawaii Biological Survey for 2009–2010, page 12.

[13] "The Hawaiian Honeycreeper: Drapandidae" by H. Douglas Pratt, page 153, 178.

[14] [Accessed on 10/21/11]

[15] "How to Plant a Native Hawaiian Garden" by Kenneth M. Nagata, page "Hāpuʻu."

[16] "Molecular Phylogenetic Relationships of Cibotium and Origin of the Hawaiian Endemics" by American Fern Journal 103(3):141–152 (2013)



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