Pili Grass

Heteropogon contortus [Poaceae]
Hawaii Native

The origin of pili grass is uncertain. It may be native to Hawaii, or it may have been brought to the islands by the Hawaiian people, but its importance to Hawaiian culture is not in doubt. This is the grass that was used to thatch the roofs of traditional houses.

Pili, also known as tanglehead or black spear grass, is found naturally throughout the tropics including Africa, Asia, Australia and the Pacific islands. It's a tussock grass that develops a peculiar looking flowering head including a sharp spikelet that becomes twisted and tangled, thus the Latin name "contortus."

Pili was once commonly found in Hawaii, but is increasingly rare, probably due to competition with introduced grasses.

Click any thumb to view a larger version of the image

Click any thumb to view a larger version of the image