Piwakawaka Mini Te Mära Reo ~ The Language Garden
PROTO-POLYNESIAN ETYMOLOGIES
*Hulufe ~ *Sulufe
Dicranopteris linearis, Gleicheniaceae [or, perhaps, "a tangled, invasive fern" - see notes]
PROTO POLYNESIAN (thence Proto Eastern Polynesian *urufe, Proto Tahitic *aruhe)

The Pollex database gives Dicranopteris linearis as the probable gloss for the Proto-Polynesian word from which the contemporary words for this group of ferns are derived. However, looking at the plants the modern Tongan reflex designates, none of which are a Dicranopteris or closely allied species, and also the cognates in other languages, it seems to me that originally *hulufe (or perhaps *sulufe -- the form the original consonant took is hard to determine) was a generic term for certain kinds of somewhat invasive ferns with stolons that enabled them to spread over wide areas. In some parts of Eastern Polynesia Dicranopteris linearis would have been the "hulufe" par excellence, whereas in Aotearoa it was (and remains) Pteridium esculentum, and in the Marquesas it became a Diplazium and Cyclosorus species. Many of them form tangled masses, which makes it easy to see why the name was given to the Hawaiian and New Zealand species. Going off on a slight tangent, it may have been their nest-like shape that led to the association (noted below) between Nephrolepis biserrata and Asplenium nidus in Tongan.

Although most of these ferns have no trouble holding their own, a few have become quite elusive. A friend of mine on the Big Island of Hawaii generously offered to help me hunt for Diplopterygium pinnatum, supposedly common in wet forests and hillsides, and Sticherus owhyensis, another member of the Gleicheniaceae sharing the name uluhe, but all we could find was the ubiquitous Dichanopteris. I also looked for those two species on Oahu and Kaua'i, with similar results! There were many false sightings, all of which on investigation turned out to be more Dichanopteris swarms. I have been told they would be easier to find on the island of Maui, but unfortunately I was researching early contacts between whalers and local populations rather than plants bearing inherited names when I was last there in 2005.

Several of the ferns listed here have undergone scientific name changes over the last few decades. Diaplazium harpoedes used to be known as D. polyanthes; Cyclosorus longissimus was formerly Dryopteris nukuhivensis, then D. longissimus var. nukuhivensis; and Diplopterygium pinnatum was once Hicriopteris pinnata or H. glabra. The genus Diplazium appears to have been shifted by some taxonomists, along with others in the family-formerly-known-as Athyriaceae, to the family Woodsiaceae, and by others to the family Dryopteridiaceae. The USDA Germ Plasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) Database notes this but continues to list the genera concerned under a variety of other family names, with Woodsia (the "type" genus) and Athyria (the "type" genus of the Athyriaceae) placed along with Diplazium in the Dryopteridiaceae. For the moment I have kicked for touch and left Diplazium listed as being in the Athyriaceae. Furthermore, in the POLLEX database the Proto Polynesian term is reconstructed as *halufe, which was originally the one used on this page. Dr Paul Geraghty has recently studied the reflexes of the original word further, and we have accepted his suggestion of *hulufe, *sulufe, with the change of the first vowel from "u" to "a" later, as more plausible.

And just to complicate matters further, the Tongan-language version of Wikipedia adds several more species of fern to those listed on the right under the names hulufe or holufe. These are: hulufe leisi -- Arachnoides aristata (Aspidiaceae), and Loxoscalphe gibberosum (Aspleniaceae); hulufe ta' elau'itelinga -- Nephrolepis hirsuta (Nephrolepidaceae) ; and hulufe vai -- Angiopteris evecta (Marattiaceae), also, probably more commonly, known as ponga. This latter fern is known as palatao (another heritage name) in Niue.

The aruhe (the root of Pteridium esculentum), despite its blandness and carcinogenic qualities, became critically important as a staple in Aotearoa. A silver-leaved cultivated variety of Pteris ensiformis (Tongan hulufe uhi) is widely grown as a garden plant; it has naturalized itself in the Cook Islands and is noted and illustrated in the Cook Islands biodiversity database.

Uluhe
Dicranopteris linearis (Uluhe), Halama Farm Trail, Island of Hawai'i.

Proto Polynesian:
*Hulufe (Dicranopteris linearis [Gleicheniaceae])
Reflexes:
Tongan: Holufe (Dennstaedtia parksii [Dennstaediaceae]); Hulufe (Asplenium nidus [Aspleniaceae]), Hulufe uhi (Pteris ensiformis [Pteridaceae])
Tahitian: Anuhe (Dicranopteris linearis; also Gleichenia dichotoma)
Marquesan: U'uhe (Cyclosorus longissimus [Thelypteridaceae] & Diplazium harpoedes [Athyriaceae])
Hawaiian: Uluhe, Unuhe (Dicranopteris linearis, Sticherus owhyhensis, & Diplopterygium pinnatum [Gleicheniaceae]))
Rarotongan: Tuanu'e (Dicranopteris linearis)
Maori: Rauaruhe (Pteridium esculentum [Dennstaedtiaceae]); aruhe (edible root of P. esculentum)
Moriori: Aruhe (Pteridium esculentum)

Uluhe
Pteridium esculentum (Rauaruhe),
Te Mära Reo.

Gallery: The gallery below pictures all the species mentioned in the right-hand list of modern reflexes of the Proto Polynesian word. I could not find a public domain photograph of a live example of Dennstaedtia parksiior or Diplazium harpoedes, so these are illustrated by images of dried herbarium specimens.

Hulufe Holufe [Tonga] (Dennstaedtia parksii)

Hulufe Hulufe Uhi [Tonga] (Pteris ensiformis)

Hulufe Hulufe [Tonga] (Nephrolepis biserrata)

A_nidus Hulufe [Tonga] (Asplenium nidus)

HulufeDicranopteris linearis frond

HulufeAnuhe [Tahiti] Gleichenia dichotoma

HulufeU'uhe [Marquesas] (Diplazium harpoedes)

HulufeU'uhe [Marquesas] (Cyclosorus longissimus)

HulufeDicranopteris linearis en masse

HulufeUluhe ~ Unuhe [Hawai'i] Diplopterygium pinnatum

HulufeUluhe ~ Unuhe [Hawai'i] Sticherus owhyhensis (Moloka'i)

HulufeSticherus owhyhensis fronds (Pu’u kukui, Maui)

Further Information: Information about these ferns is spread through many books and journals but I have not been able to find anything that gathers everything together in one place. For botanical information there is a lot of information in the journal Pacific Science, many issues of which are freely available on line; there are also excellent monographs on Hawaiian ferns (Palmer, and a well-illustrated popular work by Valier) and New Zealand ferns (Brownsey and Smith-Dodsworth, also an older but equally comprehensive work by Dobbie) and other books on New Zealand, Hawaiian and Pacific flora listed in the bibliography. References relating to the traditional uses of the New Zealand fern Pteridium esculentum (rauaruhe) are included on the linked page. Information about the renaming of Dryopteris nukuhivensis was ontained from the Herbier Tahiti database.
Photographs: Dilpazium harpoedes - University of California Moorea Digital Flora Project; Dennstaedtia parksii - University of California Photographic Database, Flora; Gleichenia dichotoma - Universität Duisburg-Essen, Germany, Botany Institute; Tongan hulufe photographs by "Tauʻolunga" on Wikipedia Commons; Pteris ensiformis - Forest and Kim Starr, Wikipedia Commons; Cyclosorus longissimus - Blog de "JYM"; (Jean-Yves Meyer); Diplopterygium pinnatum - University of Hamburg; Sticherus owhyhensis, Moloka'i– Ken Wood, University of Hawaii Botany Department; Sticherus owhyhensis, Maui - Kim and Forest Starr; Dicranopteris and Pteridium - RB.

Hue flower

Te Mära Reo, c/o Benton Family Trust, "Tumanako", RD 1, Taupiri, Waikato 3791, Aotearoa / New Zealand
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