Eleocharis erythropoda

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Kohekohe
  • Pīpīwai

Hawaiian Names

  • Kohekohe
  • Pipiwai

Common Names

  • Bald spikerush
  • Spikerush


  • Eleocharis calva
  • Eleocharis calva var. australis

leaf Plant Characteristics

Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Non-Woody, Clumping

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Grass-like, Medium, 1 to 2.5

Mature Size, Width

Kohekohe spread by rhizomes to a foot or more wide.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Container
  • Ground Cover
  • Water Features

Additional Landscape Use Information

Though not seen very often in landscapes in Hawaiʻi, this kohekohe (E. erythropoda) is the tallest of the native and naturalized species of spikerushes.

It is a great addition to water features or wet areas and spreads out by rhizomes.

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • Brownish
  • Red

Additional Flower Color Information

Kohekohe has spikelets that are tinged reddish brown and produced on the terminal ends of stalks.

Blooming Period

  • Year Round
  • Sporadic

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

This species is perennial. On the continental U.S., this rush blooms and fruits from June to September. But in the Hawaiian Islands kohekohe apparently does so sporadically year around. [3]

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Coarse

Additional Plant Texture Information

Leaves range from approximately 3 1/2 to 24 inches long.

Leaf Colors

  • Light Green
  • Medium Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

Leave sheaths are streaked reddish brown.

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Kohekohe is prone to ants, scale, mealy bugs, thrips, and aphids.

leaf Growth Requirements

Pruning Information

Dead leaf material may be trimmed as needed with sharp pruners or heavy scissors.

Water Requirements

  • Wet

Additional Water Information

Kohekohe naturally grow in and along margins of fresh to brackish lakes, marshes and ponds.

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun

Spacing Information

Space about 6 to 8 inches apart for denser plantings or about 12 inches or more apart to showcase the plants. They spread out by means of rhizomes.


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


  • Sand
  • Organic


This species appears to survive drought conditions, but die completely to the ground. Rain or watering revive them and they begin to produce new growth.

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Niʻihau
  • Oʻahu
  • Kahoʻolawe

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • Less than 150, Greater than 100 (Wet)
  • 150 to 1000, Greater than 100 (Wet)


  • Aquatic
  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

Kohekohe is occasionally found along margins of marshes and ponds where it is non-invasive where with grows other native sedges such as makaloa (Cyperus laevigatus) and neki or kaluhā (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani).

On Niʻihau it was collected over fifty years ago at Loʻe Lake. On Oʻahu it was collected early in the last century, and is currently very rare or now extinct.

More recently, Eleocharis erythropoda has been seen on Kahoʻolawe at Lua Keālialalo (Lua ʻO Keālialalo), a wetland crater in western part of the island.

Apparently this species tolerates severe drought conditions in their habitat on Niʻihau. Botanist Harold St. James writes: "Flood waters make a lake that may last for several months, then for the remainder of the year the spot is parched and completely dry and alkaline." He adds that the plants are "visible there for a few months after heavy southerly winter rains." [7]

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

The 120 or more species of spikerushes (Eleocharis spp.) belong to the Sedge family or Cyperaceae. Kohekohe are generally water loving plants with some growing in mesic environments. The Hawaiian Islands have one, possibly two, indigenous species and at least four naturalized species.

Perhaps the most well known of the spikerushes is the Chinese water chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis) in which the tubers on the rhizomes are either cooked or eaten raw.

Rush or Sedge? Though rushes and sedge belong to the same family (Cyperaceae), there is a simple way to distinguish one from another: the stem-like leaves (culms). Rushes have round, cylindrical stems or leaves, sometimes hollow like a drinking straw if cut open. Sedges have triangular, often sharp-edged leaves. Just remember: "rushes are round; sedges have edges."


The genus name Eleocharis comes from Greek helos, "of the marsh or meadow," and charis, "grace, favor, or loveliness."

The specific epithet erythropoda is from the Greek erythros, red, and pous or podo, foot, in reference to the red basal sheaths of these plants.

It is interesting to note that this plant was collected and recorded as "E. calva var. australis" and considered an endemic variety by Harold St. John. [7]

This species was thus previously known in Hawaiʻi as Eleocharis calva. The specific epithet, however, is an invalid name because it has been previously used for a different species and should correctly go by the name Eleocharis erythropoda. [2]

Background Information

Eleocharis erythropoda is questionably indigenous and possibly introduced. This status is based on the botanist Harold St. John's review of the species. [7]

Early Hawaiian Use


Around each kohekohe stem is a bright reddish basal sheath. Early Hawaiians used these basal sheaths (cylinders) to make ornamental designs in makaloa mats called moena pāwale. [1,5] Since Eleocharis erythropoda was the only known kohekohe to exist on Niʻihau, it is likely that this species was used in the making mats and other forms of weaving. [5,6]


Kohekohe (Eleocharis spp.) was used to treat puʻupuʻu wela (meaning unknown?), pūhō (abscess, burst sore, ulcer), and ʻaʻai (spreading sores). The plants was processed by cooking it and then used to wash affected areas. [4]

Additional References

[1] "A Chronicle and Flora of Niihau" by Juliet Rice Wichman and Harold St. John, page 68.

[2] "Hawaiʻi Wetland Field Guide" by Terrell A. Erickson and Christopher F. Puttock, page 225.

[3] (accessed on 9/25/09)

[4] "Native Hawaiian Medicine--Volume III" by The Rev. Kaluna M. Kaʻaiakamanu, page 63.

[5] "Niihau--The Traditions of an Hawaiian Island" by Rerioterai Tava, page 34.

[6] "Mabberley's Plant Book: A Portable Dictionary of Plants, Their Classification and Uses" by D.J. Mabberley, page 301.

[7] "Botanical Novelties on the Island of Niihau, Hawaiian Islands" by Harold St. John. Hawaiian Plant Studies 25."



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