“Why is that this crucial? In order that Hawai’ians usually are not put in second- or third-class standing of Native individuals who don’t know something.” – Isabella Aiona Abbott

Isabella Aiona Abbott—the seaweed woman, First Woman of Limu, Izzy, or we’d even name her Abottella after a seaweed that was named after her—is certainly one of many exceptional folks whose story completely calls to herbalists. Her story is much less typically advised than different well-known names of botany or herbalism. She was a botanist and labored at preserving Native Hawaiians’ information of seaweeds, crops, and plant makes use of. Her mom was Native Hawaiian. Her father was Chinese language Hawaiian, having immigrated when he was 18 to work on the Kipahulu sugar plantation, and later opened a basic retailer that was a neighborhood hub. Throughout her lifetime, from 1919-2010, Isabella was immersed in studying about crops, particularly seaweeds and the makes use of for limu (seaweeds) that she realized from Hawaiians, Tahitians, Samoan, Tongaan, Polynesians, Chinese language, Japanese, Native Peoples of the California shoreline, and anybody who knew of makes use of for any sea plant.

Her story surfaced for us whereas accumulating extra in-depth details about bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus), one of many many teams of sea greens that can also be used medicinally, and we puzzled why extra folks aren’t speaking about Izzy.  

The Lifetime of Ethnobotanist Dr. Isabella Aiona Abbott “The Seaweed Woman”

Dr. Isabella Aiona Abbott based the ethnobotanical research program at College of Hawaii in Manoa. She was an advocate for Hawaiian college students, from youngsters who attended colleges that she attended as a toddler to grown professionals of their graduate research of pure sciences. 

As younger Isabella Kauakea Yau Yung she started studying in regards to the seaweeds of Hana Maui and close by islands and seashores of Hawaii beside her mom and 7 siblings, who lived in Honolulu close to Waikiki. Her mom was a Native Hawaiian and knew virtually each native seaweed, many of the flowering crops, quite a few lichens and ferns, and different native crops and wildlife. Isabella says her mom befriended different girls particularly if in addition they had youngsters and they might take journeys collectively to seashores she knew. There Isabella’s mother would quickly be engrossed in foraging and displaying Isabella and her mates what seaweeds, additionally known as limu, you could possibly eat or not eat. Those who weren’t edible or apparently helpful her mother known as opala, a Hawaiian phrase for garbage. Izzy was upset when the seaweeds that her weren’t extremely authorised by her mother, however she would discover a livelihood amongst all of the limu, edible or not, as a famend algologist and ethnobotanist.  

Isabella attended the Kamehameha colleges, and earned her first diploma in Botany on the College of Manoa in 1941, adopted by a Grasp’s diploma in Botany from the College of Michigan. She would comply with this up with a Ph.D in Botany and turn into the primary Native Hawaiian lady to obtain a Ph.D in a science self-discipline, in 1950, on the College of California, Berkeley. 

She married a zoologist who she met at school. Within the early 1950s, tutorial positions have been infrequently appointed to girls, so that they traveled based mostly on her husband’s work for a time and she or he continued to review crops and algae on her personal whereas elevating their daughter, Annie Abbott Foerster. Along with studying new crops and algae, she began adapting recipes she knew from Hawaii to make use of any edible kelp and algae she may get her fingers on in and round Pacific Grove, California. 

After learning the seaweeds of California additional on her personal, she landed a place and instantly started publishing not solely tutorial works, however area guides, and was recruited to a full professorship. She was the primary lady and the primary particular person of shade to be a full Professor of Biology at Stanford College. 

La’au Hawaii -Traditional Hawaiian Uses of Plants book

The Books and Accomplishments of Dr. Isabella Aiona Abbott 

To say that Dr. Abbott is an achieved ethnobotanist and revealed writer is quite an understatement. She created no less than eight books and over two-hundred publications all through her profession. Her ebook La’au Hawai’i: Conventional Hawaiian Makes use of of Crops is certainly one of her many (and possibly most well-known) books, which is very targeted on Hawaiian makes use of of crops. 

Full record of revealed books: 

  • La’au (La-O) Hawaii: Conventional Hawaiian Makes use of of Crops 
  • Limu – Ethnobotanical Examine of Some Hawaiian Seaweeds – out of print booklet, and exhausting to get your fingers on nowadays!   
  • Hawaiian Reef Crops  
  • Marine Algae of California 
  • How To Know The Seaweeds
  • Marine Inexperienced and Brown Algae of the Hawaiian Islands
  • Marine Pink Algae of the Hawaiian Islands 
  • Taxonomy of Financial Seaweeds with Reference to Some Pacific and Caribbean Species 

Dr. Abbott had a notable and full tutorial profession in California, receiving many awards and titles, together with World Professional on Algae of the Pacific Ocean Basin, and unofficially the “First Woman of Limu.” In actual fact, she’s had such an impression on the earth of seaweed, a genus of purple algae was named after her: Abbottella

The record of awards and distinctions goes on and on, together with a Lifetime Achievement Award and recognition as a ‘Dwelling Treasure of Hawaii,’ however quite than record all of her awards it is perhaps extra attention-grabbing to know that there have been many! These embrace recognition for her later work and advocacy in Hawaii.  

Dr. Isabella Aiona Abbott “The Seaweed Lady”

Founding a Hawaiian Ethnobotany Program 

Dr. Abbott and her husband determined to return to Hawaii to ‘retire’ the place she was a Professor Emerita of Botany on the College of Hawaii and based the undergraduate main in Ethnobotany there on the College of Hawaii, Manoa. In her skilled and private life she was an advocate for Hawaiian college students, younger and grown, in her quick neighborhood.    

Abbott may be seen in lots of interviews later in life in Hawaii speaking about what seaweeds are edible or not, which have been the topics of her analysis, how she realized from her mom, and vacationers’ impression on seashores and Native seaweed foragers, in addition to the impression of launched seaweeds and crops on native Hawaiian sustenance crops and native Hawaiian biodiversity. She continued working on the College of Hawaii, Manoa till the age of 91.  

herb notebook with dried seaweed

These are just a few Hawaiian phrases realized from her: 

Limu: A water plant, particularly although not completely edible, normally refers to seaweeds. A minimum of 70 edible species of seaweed are well-known, and there are actually way more eaten!  

La’au: Medicinal plant although, not a direct translation. La’au additionally refers to any pure substance with use as drugs and it represents the concept of meals as drugs.

‘Ōpala: Ineffective, or garbage. Her mom used this to explain calcified seaweeds too powerful to eat! 

Alani: Bitter. Limua alani is a Hawaiian title for the bitter tasting seaweed genus Dictyota spp. 

Limu palahalaha: A Hawaiian title for Ulva fasciata, a seaweed that spreads out like a fan. Palahalaha means ‘unfold out’ or ‘fan formed’. 

The Isabella Aiona Abbott Award for Graduate Analysis in Hawaiian Ethnobotany and Marine Botany helps graduate degree analysis in pure sciences on the College of Hawaii, Manoa.  

Isabella Kauakea Yau Yung, her mom Native Hawaiian, her father Chinese language Hawaiian, is certainly one of so many exceptional Asian American and Pacific Island lecturers and advocates—and we depend her as an herbalist, too. Her story can also be relatable to many herbalists’ experiences, from discovering her method amongst many crops as a learner, to supporting others studying the pure sciences, outdated and new makes use of of crops, and advocating for others in her neighborhood to have a sustainable livelihood based mostly in custom and safety of traditions and the pure world. 

There may be a lot to be taught from her and she or he is an inspiration in some ways! 

dried seaweed in bowls on a table

Are you impressed by Dr. Isabella Aiona Abbott’s work? 

Watch this characteristic of Isabella Aiona Abbott on Lengthy Story Quick with Leslie Wilcox on PBS right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qvIXFS5k-k

Or this presentation by Isabella Aiona Abbott on the Ethnobotany of Limu right here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeWi1PlaaLI 

Impressed to be taught extra about seaweed? Dive right into a splash-course in seaweed makes use of: Seaweeds 101 – What you need to know and why you should add it into your materia medica

How about one thing extra in-depth? These sources can be found for The Herbarium subscribers:

Discover our two-part Sea Greens Collection in The Herbarium:

  1. Eat Your Sea Vegetables: Good for You, Good for the Planet (Part I)
  2. Sea Vegetables: The Why and How of Eating Macroalgae (Part II)

Cease by The Herbarium plant database and add this plant to your foraging basket: Full monograph on Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus) 

Meet Hawaiian Ethnobotanist Dr. Isabella Aiona Abbott “The Seaweed Lady” | Herbal Academy | Isabella Aiona Abbott, the seaweed lady, was a botanist who worked at preserving Native Hawaiians’ knowledge of seaweeds and plant uses.


Bense, D. (2019, March 14). A celebration of ladies’s historical past and Dr. Isabella Aiona Abbott. Ho’oulu: A UH Maui Faculty Publication.  http://maui.hawaii.edu/hooulu/2019/03/14/a-celebration-of-womens-history-and-dr-isabella-aiona-abbott/

Crites, J. (2010, October 21). Pioneering professor is first woman of limu. Mālamalama: The Mild of Data The Journal of the College of Hawaii. http://www.hawaii.edu/malamalama/2010/10/isabella-abbott/

Johnston, H. (2021, Might 3). Marine botanist Isabella Aiona Abbott and more girls to know this Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Due to Her Story. https://womenshistory.si.edu/news/2021/05/marine-botanist-isabella-aiona-abbott-and-women-know-asian-american-and-pacific-islander-heritage

Dr. Isabella Aiona Abbott. (2019, Might 20). Indigenous Goddess Gang. https://www.indigenousgoddessgang.com/matriarch-monday/2019/5/20/isabella-aiona-abbott 

Utacia Krol, D. (2017, September 1). Isabella Aiona Abbott turning into the “First Woman of Limu”. Winds of Change: American Science And Engineering Society.  Inhttps://woc.aises.org/content/isabella-aiona-abbott-becoming-%e2%80%9cfirst-lady-limu%e2%80%9d  

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