aka False awa (Piper auritum)
- Shrub-like plant that can grow to 6 m (19 ft) high.
- Mistakenly planted as true kava (Piper methysticum).
- Characteristic rootbeer or anise-like odor when leaves are crushed (only distinctive on false kava and not true kava)
- Native to tropical America, the exact introduction histories for both species are unknown. It is believed to have been accidentally distributed or planted in Hawaii as true kava in the 1990s.
- Thick growth and spreading root suckers displace other plants
- Extremely difficult to control, as root pieces, stems, and leaf margins re-grow when cut
- Grows more than twice as fast and out-competes true kava plants
- Harvesting and mixing false and true kava for exports and local sale vastly degrades the quality and value of the crop. False kava does not have the same medicinal attributes as true kava.
Known populations are being treated in Lawai, Anahola, and Kilauea. KISC is working to control this species and educate kava growers about this threat. False Kava is commonly mistaken for awa. Please call KISC for questions or to report it.
- Piper methysticum or ‘Awa is False Kava’s main look-a-like. In fact, False Kava was brought to Hawaii mistakenly, as someone thought it was true ‘Awa. Leaves differ from false kava and can be distinguished by their vein pattern. True awa have leaf veins originating from the stem-end. False kava leaves have a central mid vein with smaller veins that branch off of the central vein.