In Hawaii, two distinct fern species share the common name “Laua‘e”: Microsorum spectrum, native to Hawaii, and Microsorum scolopendria, introduced from Western Australia. Ferns, in general, are important components of Hawaii’s native flora, and they play a role in the islands’ ecosystems.
Microsorum spectrum is endemic and rare, found in rain-soaked low-elevation forests, exuding a unique fragrance. Despite its scarcity, it holds cultural importance, traditionally used in practices such as scenting kapa cloth and hula. On the other hand, Microsorum scolopendria, introduced in the late 1910s, has naturalized and is more common, replacing the native species in cultural hula practices. Both ferns are valued by lei makers and cultural practitioners in Hawaii. The distinction between these species is crucial for ecological and cultural reasons.
Scientific name: MICROSORUM SPECTRUM or Microsorum scolopendria