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Etymology: Genus name honors the 19th century British consul to the Fiji Islands, William Thomas Pritchard (1829-1907), British counsul in Fiji in the 19th Century, adventurer, and author of Polynesian Reminiscences in 1866.

As with other flora, Hawaii‘s geographic isolation has had a dramatic impact on the evolution of the genus Pritchardia. “Pritchardia is a phenomenon of Pacific insular distribution with 2 species in Tonga and the Fijian Islands, P. pacifica and P. thurstonii, 2 species in the Tuamotu Islands of French Polynesia, P. pericularium and P. vuylstekeana, and 1 species of unknown Polynesian origin, P. maideniana, yet nowhere has the genus proliferated as in the Hawaiian Islands. To date, the names of 33 species and 6 varieties of Pritchardia have been validly published for Hawaii, making Hawaii the richest palm area in terms of species in the United States.”

"There are five species of loulu endemic to the Island of Maui: Pritchardia arecina, P. forbesiana, P. glabrata, P. munroi, and P. woodii. Three of the species are also endemic to other islands. Pritchardia munroi and P. forbesiana are also endemic to the Island of Molokai, as is P. glabrata to the Island of Lanai. Four species of loulu are endemic to Molokai: Pritchardia forbesiana, P. hillebrandii, P. lowreyana, and P. munroi. Two, P. forbesiana and P. munroi are also endemic to the west end of Maui and have been presented with the other loulu native to Maui." (Bill Chang)

Pritchardia is the only genus of palms growing in Hawaii prior to human contact. An estimated 19 species evolved in Hawaii with large fruited species in the upper elevations, and small seeded species in the lowlands. Pollen records indicate these palms once dominated dry lowland forests in Hawaii. (University of Hawaii)

Pritchardia is the only member of Arecaceae native to Hawaii with 24 known single island endemic species, and demonstrates the richest palm diversity in terms of species in the United States. All Hawaiian Pritchardia spp. possess fragrant, perfect flowers. Although there is a possibility that their pollinator(s) have become extinct (over 50% of the avifauna are extinct in Hawaii), they manage to pollinate successfully. The author has observed the endemic Kamehameha butterfly (Vanessa tameamea) visiting P. viscosa flowers. They demonstrate high seed viability if collected ripe at the time of shedding. Only three individuals remain in the wild. They grow as congeners with P. waialealeana, P. hardyi, and P. flynnii within a degraded open mesic forest with a clay-soil substrate, at 427 m elevation. (

The genus Pritchardia consists of 29 named species, and several sp. and variations, found on tropical Pacific Ocean islands in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Tuamotus, and Hawaii. Etymology: Pritchardia name is dedicated to William Thomas Pritchard (1829-1907), British official stationed in Fiji in the 19th Century, British counsul in Fiji, adventurer, and author of Polynesian Reminiscences in 1866. These palms vary in height, ranging from 20 to 130 ft (6.1 to 40 m). The leaves are fan-shaped, and the trunk columnar, naked, smooth or fibrous, longitudinally grooved, and obscurely ringed by leaf scars. The flowers and subsequent fruit are borne in a terminal cluster with simple, or compound branches of an arcuate or pendulous inflorescence, that (in some species) is longer than the leaves, and in some cases are well over 8 feet long, just inches from the ground.

Loulu is the Hawaiian name for all species of Pritchardia in the Hawaiian Archipelago. The name has at times been misspelled as Loʻulu. However, Loʻulu, with ʻokina, is the name of the endemic Hawaiian fern Coniogramme pilosa. Loulu is also used for a species of filefish (Alutera monoceros), perhaps so called because its greenish-white skin resembled the loulu palm. It was used in sorcery to cause death because the name contains the word lou, to hook. Noulu is a variation of Loulu. The Hawaiian name “Loulu” is pronounced low-loo. Loulu means "umbrella," because the leaves were formerly used as protection from rain or sun. The names Hāwane and Wāhane can refer to either the fruits, or the trees themselves.

Uses: The fruits called hāwane or wāhane were peeled and eaten by early Hawaiians. They collected young fruits. The flavor of young fruit with the soft interior is similar to coconut. The trunks of the loulu were notched for climbing, to gather the immature fruits and fronds. Older specimens still bear notches that can be seen today. The fronds, or leaves, called lau hāwane were used by the early Hawaiians for thatching and more recently as plaiting such as papale (hats) and fans. (Encyclopedia of Life curator Dr. David Eickhoff)

Pritchardia hillebrandii: An amazing use by early Hawaiians was a sport somewhat like today's hang gliding. Reportedly, daring souls would climb Huelo Islet seastack, cut suitable fronds, attach fronds like wings, and then jump to glide to the ocean over a hundred feet below!" (Audrey Sutherland)