‘Aweoweo is one of several native members of the Amaranthaceae, family and can be found on all of the major Hawaiian islands as well as Papa‘āpoho (Lisianski), Kauō (Laysan), Kānemilohaʻi (French Frigate Shoals), Mokumanamana (Necker), and Nihoa. This widespread species exists as a shrub to small tree that can be found from coastal dry forests to subalpine shrublands at over 8,000 ft. elevation. The leaves are typically 3-lobed and are dull greenish-gray, darker on the top than the bottom. When crushed, the leaves can produce varying degrees of fish-like aromatics, hence the shared Hawaiian name, ‘aweoweo. Flowers and Fruit are quite small and are arranged in leafless panicles.
In the landscape, ‘aweoweo can be used as a container, accent, ground cover, or hedge. Trimming back of the inflorescence will promote thicker leaves. Once established, ‘aweoweo does not require watering unless experiencing drought for several months. It can be grown in full sun to partial shade and drought, wind, salt spray, and heat tolerant. New stems and leaves can often produce a red streaking pattern which can add a nice pop of color to the landscape. ‘Aweoweo is a prolific seed producer, so many seedlings may appear underneath, but they are not invasive.
Native water and land birds have been known to use ‘aweoweo for both food and nesting material. Historically, early Hawaiians would use the wood of ‘aweoweo to form makau mano, or bone-pointed shark hooks. The leaves and shoots can also be wrapped in tī, cooked in an īmu, and eaten like spinach.
- Wagner, Warren L., Derral R. Herbst, and S. H. Sohmer. Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawaii. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 1999