Common name: Bottle Gourd
Hawaiian name: Ipu
Scientific name: Lagenaria siceraria
Native Status: Introduced
Common name: Bottle Gourd
Description: The ipu or gourd is in the gourd family. It is a vegetable and is a relative of the pumpkin. From the wide-spreading vine grows leaves, tendrils flowers, and fruits. The leaf is heart-shaped and has five lobes. The tendrils are coily and will attach the vine to some kind of support. The white flower has five petals and blossoms at night. The tiny flower is only about one-half inch in length. The young gourd (ipu) fruit is soft and covered with downy hairs and is green or white. The fruit of the gourd(ipu) can grow short and thick, or the fruit can grow long and thin. It can contain a white pulp with flat seeds.
Uses: The gourd had a lot of uses to the Hawaiians. The dried shell was a good container to hold food, water, dyes, clothes, shark bait, and fishhooks. They made the containers by cutting off the top and removing the meat. They also were made into musical instruments. The pear-shape gourd was made into a whistle which the Hawaiians called ipu hokiokio. For hula, it was used as rattles, 'uli'uli, and as drums called ipu hula. The ipu shell was used as a rat guard on the legs of the temple to keep rats from climbing up to eat the food offerings to the gods. The Hawaiian fishermen beat on the ipu to scare away sharks from the fish that they wanted to catch.
Legends: Lots of legends tell about the gourd (Ipu) vine. One legend tells of Maui who made a kite out of hau wood and tapa cloth. It was forty-five feet across and seventy-five feet long. He asked two of his friends to help carry his huge kite to the Keeper-of-the-Winds. He asked the Keeper-of-the-Winds, ''Can we have some breezes?'' So the Keeper -of-the-Winds went in his cave and got an ipu called Ipu Ika. The Keeper-of-the-Winds called out some breezes. Maui asked for more and he got more. He asked for even more and he got all of the Ipu Ika winds. The next day he went back to Keeper-of-the-Winds and said, "I am not afraid of Ipu Nui." Ipu Nui was boiling in the cave. Keeper-of-the-Winds went into the cave and brought out Ipu Nui which held the stronger winds. East winds, north winds, west winds, and south winds sent the kite flying wildly. Finally, Maui let the kite go. It went past the river and over the treetops and also over the crater of the volcano. The winds had won. Maui then made a small kite. After a while, he knew what kind of weather they were going to have. He told his neighbor who was going to the taro patch that it is going to rain. After an hour, he came back soaked. Maui was right. Another day a person was going to fish and after an hour he almost drowned. Maui was right again. He used the wind and his kite to predict the weather. People depended on him. After many months they no longer called him Maui-the-Kite-Flyer-Who-Brought-the-Great-Storm instead they called him Maui-Whose-Kite-Fortells-the-Weather. Keeper-of-the-Winds became friendly. And never again did Maui ask for Ipu Nui and Ipu Ika.
Another legend tells of a woman chief who was buried in a cave. A gourd vine grew from her belly button and grew to the chief's garden. The chief saw a beautiful gourd growing from the vine and thumped on it to see if it was ripe. The gourd's spirit didn't like the thumping so it complained to the kahuna in a dream. The chief and the kahuna followed the vine to the place where it started to grow. To their surprise, it was growing from the woman chief's grave. Since that time, the gourd has been treated with respect.