cover image of palapalai


  • ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi: Palapalai
  • Scientific: Microlepia strigosa var. strigosa

Conservation Status

  • Apparently Stable

Species Information

Palapalai is indigenous to the Hawaiian islands and is in the bracken or hay scented fern family Dennstaedtiaceae. There are two indigenous species and a hybrid found on the main Hawaiian islands. It has light to medium green fronds which can grow to more than 0.9 m (3 ft) long. Early Hawaiians used the fronds to decorate hula alters and the ferns as head lei, neck lei, and wrist lei (Nagata, 1992; . McDonald, 2003). It was also used to bathe in. Young leaf fronds were fed to babies (Kaaiakamanu, 1917).


Palapalai is found on all Hawaiian islands except Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe.


Found in shady, moist habitats from 230 to 1830 m (70 to 557 ft) (“Palapalai, Palai,” n.d.).


  • Competition with alien invasive plants
  • Damage from trampling by feral ungulates

References & Additional Resources

Hawaiian Ecosystems and Culture: Why Growing Plants for Lei Helps to Preserve Hawai‘i’s Natural and Cultural Heritage

Kaaiakamanu, D. M.; Chun, Malcolm Nāea. 1917. Native Hawaiian medicine. Vol. III (2003 translation ed.). Honolulu: First People’s Productions

McDonald, Marie A. 2003. Nā lei makamae = The treasured lei. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press.

Nagata, Kenneth M. 1992. How to plant a native Hawaiian garden. Honolulu: Hawaii State Office of Environmental Quality Control.

“Palapalai, Palai.” Bishop Museum – Ethnobotany Database,