Saturday, October 6, 2007


Here on the east side of the Big Island, ferns grow in abundance. Some are native, some not.

An indigenous fern that is easy to grow is kupukupu, sword fern, Nephrolepis cordifolia. Kupukupu fronds are more uniform and don't taper as much as non-native species. In our rainy, humid weather they make an excellent ground cover around native hibiscus plantings and hapu'u. They're easy to pull up and transfer to other areas of your yard.

One way to identify it is to see whether the roots have small tubers present. If you have a patch of what might be kupukupu you can pull up a few plants to see if any have tubers on them. You can replant the tubers to make more plants.

I don't spray my yard with herbicides. Everything not welcome to stay gets pulled out by hand or in some cases burned with a propane flamer. So pretty much any plant is welcome to visit and put down roots. But I decide when it's time for them to leave.

This has allowed kupukupu to appear in my yard where it wasn't for a year and a half on the entire property. The previous owner kept this area filled in with blue rock and regularly sprayed it, he being of the neatnik persuasion. Since this area of my yard seems to foster the kupukupu, I use it as a kupukupu nursery. Little by little I'll take plants from here to fill in bare areas in the back of my house, using cinder as a cover to supress weeds until the ferns grow and fill in all of the areas.

Kupukupu is tough, and drought tolerant, so it's a good filler in container plantings, too.

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