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Ko is a large perennial grass, with strong, thick, unbranched stems. The strems have short conspicuous nodes and internodes, are inch or more in diameter and is filled with solid, juicy pulp. Some varieties have yellow or striped stems or It grows in clumps or ratoons. The leaves are 1 ft. by 1.5 inch, long and narrow, smooth with saw-toothed edges.
These plants were planted near a taro lo'i on Kualoa Ranch illustrating ancient Hawaiian agriculture.
Ko was introduced into Polynesia by migrants from southern Asia or Malaysia and was carried from Central Polynesia to Hawaii by Polynesian colonizers early in the settlement era. Originally cultivated in prehistoric times near central New Guinea. Ko grows best near sea level, but on the leeward side of the Hawaiian islands, it can grow at an altitude of up to 2800 ft. This species is also planted on the embankments of taro lo`is.