Cyperus javanicus

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • ʻAhuʻawa
  • ʻEhuʻawa

Hawaiian Names

  • Ahuawa
  • Ehuawa

Common Names

  • Java sedge
  • Javanese flatsedge
  • Marsh cyperus


  • Cyperus caricifolius
  • Cyperus owahuensis
  • Mariscus javanicus

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Non-Woody, Clumping

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Grass-like, Medium, 1 to 2.5
  • Grass-like, Tall, Greater than or equal to 2.5

Mature Size, Width

ʻAhuʻawa has a spread of 2 feet or more.

Life Span

Short lived (Less than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Erosion Control
  • Ground Cover
  • Water Features

Additional Landscape Use Information

ʻAhuʻawa is flood tolerant and can be used along water banks to control erosion. It is an excellent natural feature for restoration projects and used as food, nesting material and shelter by native waterfowl. This sedge tolerates salty water and soils. [2] The plants will naturally reseed themselves for regeneration without becoming invasive.

An alternate to using umbrella sedge.

Source of Fragrance

  • No Fragrance

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • Brownish
  • White
  • Yellow

Additional Flower Color Information

Though ʻahuʻawa flowers are diminutive, the golden brown seed heads combined with the beautiful bluish green foliage are attractive features of this native sedge.

Blooming Period

  • Year Round

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Coarse

Additional Plant Texture Information

ʻAhuʻawa leaves range from 16 to more than 45 inches long.

Leaf Colors

  • Gray / Silverish
  • Medium Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

Leaves are green to bluish or gray green and often have a powdery white cast.

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

ʻAhuʻawa is prone to ants, scale, mealy bugs and aphids.

leaf Growth Requirements


Fertilize ʻahuʻawa with small amounts of 8-8-8, and foliar feed at one-third to one-quarter of recommended strength. Do not over fertilize.

Pruning Information

The beautiful leaves are enhanced by the golden seed heads. When these seed heads turn brown they may be trimmed off. If ʻahuʻawa is being grown for the foliage itself, the seed stalks can be pruned to prolong the life of this sedge. The seed heads and stalks may have potential for flower arrangements. Cut plants back and divide them to keep this sedge looking their best. [Native Nursery, LLC]

Water Requirements

  • Dry
  • Moist
  • Wet

Additional Water Information

ʻAhuʻawa can grow in dry, moist and wet conditions, and in standing water to about 8 inches. Under optimal wet conditions, ʻahuʻawa can reseed and become weedy if not controlled in a landscape setting.

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

Additional Lighting Information

If grown in too much shade ʻahuʻawa tends grow leggy. The plants perform best in full sun. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Spacing Information

Space 2 to 4 feet apart.


  • Waterlogged Soil
  • Drought
  • Brackish Water
  • Wind
  • Salt Spray
  • Heat


  • Clay
  • Sand
  • Cinder
  • Organic
  • Coral


ʻAhuʻawa leaf blades are very sharp and so do not plant near high traffic walk ways. The saying "sedges have edges" is most apropos for this plant.

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Niʻihau
  • Kauaʻi
  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui
  • Hawaiʻi
  • Northwest Islands

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • Less than 150, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)

Additional Habitat Information

ʻAhuʻawa is found in a variety of habitats such as along coastal sites, cliffs and stream banks. In the Northwest Islands this sedge is found on Midway Atoll (Pihemanu) and is known to occur in marshes, taro paddies, along streams and ditches. ʻAhuʻawa has even been found in mangroves exposed to brackish and salt water. [1]

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

There are fourteen species in the genus Cyperus that are native to the Hawaiian Archipelago, with eight that are endemic, or found exclusively, here. Cyperus belong to the Sedge Family (Cyperaceae) consisting of some 4,000 species in about 70 genera.

Famous, or infamous, non-native relatives include papyrus (Cyperus papyrus), the source of the Egyptian writing material and the origin of the English word paper; piripiri or cañita (Cyperus giganteus) used in parts of Mexico for plaiting sleeping mats and sambreros; and the ever-present noxtious lawn weed nutsedge or "nutgrass" (Cyperus rotundus) that keep homeowners busy and gardeners employed, but also used in Kampō (traditional Japanese/Chinese medicine). [3]


The generic name Cyperus comes from the kyperos, the Greek word for sedge.

The specific epithet javanicus is Latin for "belonging to Java." This species is indigenous to Java, Indonesia, and other parts of the world.

Hawaiian Names:

The name ʻEhuʻawa for this species should not be confused with Ehuʻawa (Cyperus laevigatus), which lacks the first ʻokina.

Early Hawaiian Use


One of the few indigenous plants cultivated by early Hawaiians.


The stems of of ʻahuʻawa were pounded until there were only fibers. The fibers were soaked for a few hours to free pulp, dried in the sun for a day or two, and then could be used. [7] The material was very durable, lasting two years or more. Two- or three-ply cordage was used for cords (hāwele) or nets (kōkō puʻupuʻu) designed to carry ʻumeke (food or water containers). Due to its strength, it was good for deep water fishing line and canoe rigging. They were also used as strainers for ʻawa or niu (coconut) drink and medicine. [4,6,7]


The leaves and seed/fruit were used in lei. [5]


ʻAhuʻawa was used to treat ‘ea (thrush) in children. The stems and flowers were used with green kukui (Aleurites moluccana) fruit sap. ‘Ahu‘awa was also used with ‘alaea clay, ‘awa root (Piper methysticum), and kō kea (white sugar cane) for ule hilo (gonorrhea) and waikī (gonorrhea in males). The fine sediment of ahu‘awa was mixed with lama kuahiwi (Diospyros spp.) for use on deep cuts, bruises, boils, cold sores. A runny nose is treated by inhaling powdered ‘ahu‘awa. [8]

Other Uses:

The stringy fibers were also made into brushes to paint color onto tapa (kapa). [4]

Additional References

[1] "A Guide to Pacific Wetlands Plants" by Lani Stemmermann, page 38.

[2] "Amy Greenwell Garden Ethnobotanical Guide to Native Hawaiian Plants & Polynesian Introduced Plants" by Noa Kekuewa Lincoln, page 9.

[3] [accessed 10/12/09]

[4] "Plants of the Canoe People" by W. Arthur Whistler, pages 144-145.

[5] "Nā Lei Makamae--The Treasured Lei" by Marie A. McDonald & Paul R. Weissich, page 7.

[6] "Resource Units in Hawaiian Culture" by Donald D. Kilolani Mitchell, page 136.

[7] "Lāʻau Hawaiʻi: Traditional Hawaiian Uses of Plants" by Isabella Aiona Abbott, page 59, 62, 63.

[8] "Hawaiian Ethnobotany Online Database" [Accessed 1/25/12]



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