Run a web search for images of “Hawaii,” and the top results fill your screen with stretches of pristine white sand and blue water. Look familiar? They are archetype images of paradise, yet tell a story of this place that is largely incomplete.
Among the many things you won’t find in those images are Hawaiʻi’s native seaweeds. Named limu in the Hawaiian language, these “plants of the sea” are found throughout the islands and form a critical cultural and ecological piece of Hawaiʻi’s oceanscape. Limu are food for fish, forming part of the foundation of a complex trophic web that spans from people to plankton. For many of us in Hawaiʻi, limu are most commonly brought to mind as an essential ingredient in our lunchtime poke bowls. They are also a gift shared among friends and family for affirming ties, used medicinally and featured in ho’oponopono, a traditional practice for reconciliation and healing.