In ancient Hawaiʻi, pulu (which means "mulch" or "padding" in the Hawaiian language) was used to embalm the dead. Women used pulu as an absorbent during their menstrual cycle. When their time came around, they were isolated to a house called the hale peʻa or menstrual house. Men were strongly discouraged to set foot on the grounds of the hale peʻa, by strict social custom known as kapu. Hawaiians organized the hapuʻu fern into two genders; male and female. Males had the tough pulu, and females had the soft pulu. All soiled pulu was then buried around the hale peʻa.
For a period in the 19th century, pulu was collected, dried, and exported to California commercially as pillow and mattress stuffing. A stone structure in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park known as the Old Pulu Factory was a site for drying and packing pulu. However, the discovery that pulu breaks down and crumbles into dust after only a few years led to the demise of the industry. Pulu was collected by cutting down the slow-growing ferns, an extremely unsustainable method. The industry shut down by the 1880s.
- Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel Hoyt Elbert (2003). "lookup of pulu". in Hawaiian Dictionary. Ulukau, the Hawaiian Electronic Library, University of Hawaii Press. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
- Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel Hoyt Elbert (2003). "lookup of pe'a". in Hawaiian Dictionary. Ulukau, the Hawaiian Electronic Library, University of Hawaii Press. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
- Louis Harmuth (1915), Dictionary of textiles, Fairchild publishing company, p. 128
- Douglass H. Hubbard (June 1952). Ferns of Hawaii National Park. Hawaii Nature Notes. V. Hawaii Natural History Association. p. 6.
- Puakea Nogelmeier (1986). Pulu: historical aspects of a Hawaiian forest industry.