Limu (algae)

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Ahi limu poke: raw fish with limu

Limu, otherwise known as rimu or ʻimu is a general Polynesian term for edible plants living underwater, such as seaweed, or plants living near water, like algae.[1][2] In Hawaii, there are approximately one hundred names for kinds of limu, sixty of which can be matched with scientific names.[3] Hundreds of species or marine algae were once found in Hawaii.[4] Many limu are edible, and used in the cuisine throughout most of Polynesia.


Several species of limu are used as food throughout Polynesia and is typically eaten raw as accompaniment to meals, usually fish.

In Hawaii, limu was seen as a major component of the Hawaiian diet alongside fish and poi.[5] Hawaiians cultivated several varieties of seaweed for food as well as to feed fish farmed within fish ponds. As many as 75 types of limu were used for food, more than the 35 used in Japanese cuisine, which is also well known for its use of seaweed.[4] In modern times, limu is often used as a condiment, typically in raw fish dishes such as poke.[6]

Limu was used in hoʻoponopono, the ancient Hawaiian process of conflict resolution. Injured and accused parties gathered to pray, seek forgiveness and eat limu kala leaves as a symbol of reconciliation.[6][7] It is also used in traditional hula attire[8] and as medicine.[9]

Due to the shape of its foliage, the Maori also applied the name rimu to the native tree Dacrydium cupressinum.


Limu comes from multiple genera[5]

Easter Island[edit]

French Polynesia[edit]


New Zealand[edit]





Limu has become increasingly difficult to find because of over-picking, pollution, and urban development,[12] especially construction in watersheds. Many important kinds of limu grow best in brackish water where fresh water empties into the sea. Another threat to limu is the spread of marine alien invasive species, such as members of the genus Kappaphycus (smothering seaweed), Gracilaria salicornia (gorilla ogo), Avrainvillea amadelpha (leather mudweed), Hypnea musciformis (hook weed) and Acanthophora spicifera (prickly seaweed).[13]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Abbott, Isabella Aiona (1992). Lā'au Hawai'i: Traditional Hawaiian Uses of Plants. Bishop Museum Press. ISBN 9780930897628.
  • Abbott, Isabella Aiona; Huisman, John Marinus (2004). Marine Green and Brown Algae of the Hawaiian Islands. Bishop Museum Press. ISBN 9781581780307.


  1. ^ "Seaweed, mosses and algae of polynesia".
  2. ^ "Nā Puke Wehewehe ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi". Retrieved 2019-04-26.
  3. ^ Aiona Abbott, Isabella. "Limu" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-09-05.[dead link]
  4. ^ a b c d MacCaughey, Vaughan (1916). "The Seaweeds of Hawaii". American Journal of Botany. 3 (8): 474–479. doi:10.1002/j.1537-2197.1916.tb05429.x. ISSN 0002-9122. JSTOR 2435240.
  5. ^ a b "Edible Limu of Hawaii". Retrieved 2019-04-22.
  6. ^ a b Spalding, Heather. "Got limu? Uses for algae in Hawaii and beyond" (PDF). University of Hawaii. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e Wianecki, Shannon (2010-03-01). "The Lure of Limu". Retrieved 2019-04-22.
  8. ^ "New Algae Species Discovered in Hawaii's Deep Waters". Retrieved 2019-04-26.
  9. ^ Reed, Minnie (1907). Economic seaweeds of Hawaii and their food value. Washington, U.S. Government Printing Office. hdl:10125/42229.
  10. ^ "Limu Palahalaha". Waikīkī Aquarium. 2013-11-11. Retrieved 2019-04-26.
  11. ^ Lincoln, Noa Kekuewa (2020-10-31). Kō: An Ethnobotanical Guide to Hawaiian Sugarcane Cultivars. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-8307-2.
  12. ^ Hiraishi, Ku`uwehi. "Cultivating a Future for Hawaiian Seaweed". Retrieved 2019-04-26.
  13. ^ "Invasive Algae". Aquatic Invasive Species. 2013-12-09. Retrieved 2019-04-22.

External links[edit]