Cibotium menziesii

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Hāpuʻu
  • Hāpuʻu ʻiʻi
  • Hāpuʻupuʻu
  • Pepeʻe
  • ʻIʻi
  • ʻIʻiʻi

Hawaiian Names

  • Hapuu
  • Hapuu ii
  • Hapuupuu
  • Ii
  • Iii
  • Pepee

Common Names

  • Hawaiian tree fern
  • Menzies' tree fern


  • Cibotium chamissoi
  • Cibotium pruinatum
  • Dicksonia menziesii

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

Hāpuʻu ʻiʻi has an 8 to over 15 foot spread.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Screening

Additional Landscape Use Information

Hāpuʻu ʻiʻi is a strikingly beautiful native tree fern that deserves to be grown more frequently in the appropriate landscape setting. Though originating at higher elevations, hapuʻu ʻiʻi can be grown as low as 300 feet, perhaps lower, under the proper conditions. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Hāpuʻu is a excellent understory plant for the landscape to help control erosion. Plant in slightly acidic and well drained soil. 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

Fronds can grow to over 15 feet long.

Leaf Colors

  • Dark Green
  • Light Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

Fronds have cobweb-like hairs which may be mustard to reddish brown in color. In Hawaiian, ʻiʻi and ʻiʻiʻi means reddish brown.

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Hāpuʻu ʻiʻi 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

Additional Water Information

Plants can tolerate both moist and dry conditions and appreciates being watered on emerging fiddle, fronds and trunk. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Partial sun
  • Shade

Additional Lighting Information

In rainy locations such as Hilo, hāpuʻu ʻiʻi do fine in open in full sun. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]


  • Wind


  • Cinder
  • Organic


Hāpuʻu ʻiʻi can at times be difficult to accept transplanting. This beautiful tree fern appears to be seldom seen in landscaping.* [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]


* Sometimes this species (C. menziesii) was mixed in with the shipments of Cibotium glaucum available in local garden stores, which 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

Hāpuʻu ʻiʻi occurs in mesic to wet forests from 820 to nearly 4600 feet.

Primarily terrestrial, they also grow as epiphytes on larger trees usually in the debris filled crotch of a branch.

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

Cibotium belong to the family Cibotiaceae. [8] Worldwide there are nine species of Cibotium, four of which are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. [13]


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 species epithet menziesii refers to Archibald Menzies (1754-1842) a Scottish surgeon and naturalist, and the first to taxonomically identify the species. [5]

Hawaiian Names:

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

In Hawaiian, ʻiʻi means "short" or "reddish brown" and ʻiʻiʻi means "tiny."

In modern times to help with the proper pronunciation, hāpuʻu should be spelled with a kahakō over the "a."  [9,10]

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.

The Panewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens notes that local residents sometimes mistakenly call this species "the male tree fern," while hāpuʻu pulu (Cibotium glaucum) is called "the female tree fern." [2] However, hāpuʻu are not separated as male or female.

A natural hybrid Cibotium chamissoi x C. menziesii, named C. x heleniae after fern expert Daniel A. Palmer's wife, Helen, is intermediate in character between the two parents. This hybrid occurs on most leeward ridges and the bases of windward cliffs, Koʻolau Range and Mt. Kaʻala, Waiʻanae Range, Oʻahu. It is probably found on other islands where to the two species coexist.

These grow to be the largest of the native tree ferns growing to 35 feet and having a 3-foot trunk diameter. [2]

The pulu ("wool") is used as nest lining by Hawaiian honeycreepers. [9]

A vernacular name used is Menzies' tree fern. [12]

Early Hawaiian Use


Hawaiians, both long ago as well as in recent times, ate the uncoiled fronds (fiddles), which were considered delicious when boiled. The starchy core, though, was famine food. One trunk may contain 50-70 pounds of almost pure starch and would have been used for human consumption, while young stems were fed to pigs. This was used for human as well as pig consumption. [4,12] 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. [4]

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 Hawaiians up to the mid-1800s for dressing wounds, embalming bodies,* and for pillow and mattress stuffing. [7] The outside "skin" of the partly uncurled fronds (pepeʻe) was used to make hats (pāpale). [12]


* The embalming procedure is described by Beatrice Krauss. She writes:

"According to Degener, pulu was used for embalming dead. Corpses were first deviscerated (throat, tongue, brain, and abdominal organs); cavities resulting from this operation were then tightly stuffed with pulu, and sewed up with olona cordage. Body was then wrapped in black tapa, and allowed to remain for eight months. Then the body was placed in cave whose mouth was sealed with rock wall and/or cement-like volcanic ash, or buried in ground, with mound of stones placed over it." [12]

Modern Use

Young stems were formerly used to make hats.

The starchy trunk core has been used for cooking and laundry and the outer fibrous part, to line or form baskets for plants.

Recent use of hāpuʻu has been as orchid and anthurium growing media.

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] Panewa Zoo & Rainforest Gardens (accessed August 4, 2008)
[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 235.

[5] [accessed 11/4/10]

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

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

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

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

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

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

[12] "Ethnobotany of Hawaii" by Beatrice H. Krauss, pages 79, 80.

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




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