`Uala – Sweet Potato Plant – 6″



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The mo`olelo of Hina`aiakamalama (mahalo to Papahana Kuaola for the video link) tells the story of the first `uala in He`eia. In the story, Hina`aiakamalama climbs Pu`u ma`eli`eli (a wahi pana of He`eia) to escape her selfless labors of love to live on the moon (mahina). She looks down to see her family, truly repentant for their indolence and her love for them manifests as an `uala sprout which can be cut and propogated from the mother plant. Those familiar with the story refer to `uala as hualani, or seed of the heavens. Pu`u `Ualaka`a State Park hill is said to have been named for a sweet potato that broke loose from its vine on a field from above that rolled down to the fields in Manoa.

Many wahi pana in  the hawaiian islands refer to the significance of the `uala aka sweet potato vine. It is said, “he ‘uala ka ‘ai ho‘ola koke i ka wi” which explains that the sweet potato provides food that ends famine quickly because it can mature in only a few months and fills the role of a foundational starch in our indigenous diet.

Regardless of whether your plan is to harvest, this plant can act as ground cover, grow up fences, and hang down over walls. Each growth center blooms into a beautiful, purple bud in maturity. Once the plant has become established, you won’t need to worry about its maintenance for years to come.