Hāpuʻu is an endemic tree fern found in wet forests in association with mature ʻōhiʻa at elevations from about 1,000-feet to 6,000-feet. Young stems were formerly used to make hats; the starchy core has been used for cooking and laundry, the outer fibrous part to line or form baskets for plants. The edible starch in the core of the trunk and the young leaves were eaten during the time of famine.
The young unfurled fronds are densely covered with soft golden colored, wool-like fibers called pulu; Hawaiians stuffed bodies of their dead with pulu after removing vital organs. Later, pulu became a commodity, “Pulu, or fern down, is also an important and staple article of export. This soft, yellow, silken down, gathered from the exhaustless fern fields of Hilo and Puna, is much used in California for upholstery as a substitute for feathers, wool and hair.”