Scientific Name: Fimbristylis cymosa
Description: This is a type of native sedge that forms short, rounded tufts up to 10 inches high. It has light green foliage with narrow, erect blades that are very stiff. When flowering, a cluster of brown spikelets form on a taller stem that rises slightly above the rest of the plant. Mau’u’aki’aki is a plant that you have to touch in order to get the full effect of it.
Distribution: This indigenous plant is widespread throughout the Pacific. Here in Hawai’i it is found in the coastal strand zones usually in rocky areas but sometimes in sand right in the heart of the most brutal conditions.
Cultural Uses: There are no known cultural uses for this plant.
Landscape Uses and Care: Mau’u’aki’aki is very strong and can tolerate the most harsh environments including blazing sun, wind, salt and drought conditions. There are also no pests that I have seen bother this plant as of yet, except for the horse that’s on our old property that used to eat it, but you can’t get rid of that problem with any store bought pesticide. In the landscape we like to use it as either an accent plant around rocks (just like in its natural habitat) or as a mass planting of ground cover like how you would use mondo grass (which is not native by the way) but in full sun.
Don’t over water. The best way to water mau’u’aki’aki is to give it a good soaking and not water again until the soil is completely dried out. Once its established only water when needed, sometimes that’s never.
Additional Info: Don’t get this plant confused with another native grass called ‘aki’aki (without the mau’u in front), its botanical name is Sporoblolus virginicus and they are very different, although they grow in the same habitat, ‘aki’aki prefers sandy areas while mau’u ‘aki’aki likes rocky areas, on top of that, they look nothing alike. What’s funny is that mau’u is a general name for grasses in the Hawaiian language which would make you think that Sporobolus virginicus, the grass, would be called mau’u’aki’aki rather than just ‘aki’aki and Fymbristylis cymosa, the sedge, would be called just ‘aki’aki. Whatevahs.Mauuakiaki