Lace Fern (Microlepia strigosa)
Hawai’i Islands: Hawai’i, Kaua’i, Lana’i, Maui, Moloka’i, O’ahu
Rapa Nui: Rapa Nui
Society Islands: Tahiti
nehe nehe – Rapa Nui
palai – Hawai’i Islands
palapalai – Hawai’i Islands
The Lace Fern is distributed in many parts of Asia, within the Polynesian region it occurs on Tahiti, Society Islands as well as on Rapa Nui. The species can also be found on the Hawaiian main islands, where on the island of Maui, an endemic variety, Microlepia strigosa var. mauiensis (W. H. Wagner) D. D. Palmer, is known to exist, which was formerly thought to be a distinct species, and which can be distinguished from the typical variety by its hairy fronds.
The Hawaiian name for this species is palai resp. palapalai, its fronds were used in ancient times to decorate the altars of laka, the hula goddess, as well as for making lei.
In Rapa Nui the species is named nehe nehe, a term that is used for almost all fern species.
Photo: Kim Starr & Forest Starr; by courtesy of Kim Starr & Forest Starr