The Hala tree has fascinated me for years. This tropical tree, native to Hawaii, grows abundantly on the Big Island. It has winding, intertwined limbs and fronds that wave in the wind like Hula dancers.
Hawaiian legend says that the Hala tree is so abundant as a direct result of Pele’s rage, whose canoe, on her first landing ashore, got entangled in the resistant roots and leaves. In her anger she ripped the trees in pieces and threw them across the island, and the Hala sprouted, happy and wise, wherever it touched ground. Her anger was fortunate, because no other tree has been as useful to the Hawaiian people.
The Hala, or pandanus, a native to the Hawaiian and Pacific islands, has such long aerial roots, reaching to the ground, that the whole tree appears to walk on straight and sturdy stilts.
It is said that the Hala lei, made from the keys of its pineapple-like fruit, is connected to death, and eternal good-bye. Thus, wearing a Hala lei can bring bad luck. Around the new year, however, troubles leave forever, and the lei brings good luck.
It is also said that the lei brings wisdom, and that the pollen of the male flower, stirred in a woman’s food, makes for an ardorous and passionate night.
It is said that when children are like the many-rooted Hala on the mountain side, a mother has devoted children indeed.
Today, the Hala tree is best known for the ancient and sophisticated craft of lauhala weaving.
(Lau means leaf).