When in Hawaii, you’re sure to find wonderful adventures amongst nature’s jewels and colors. The island is especially known for its lush gardens, decorated with distinct tropical flowers that have made their way into Hawaiian fashion, tradition, and even cuisine. As you head out for some fun in the sun, get familiar with these island blooms – how they look like, where you can find them, and the luck they are said to bring to a wandering discoverer.
Locally called apuwahi, the attractive blue ginger can be rare to find, usually spotted in large greeneries, plantations, or abandoned gardens. It stands out in vivid purples and sapphires, sometimes with tiny tulip-like pods crowding its stalk when found just before its bloom.
This fiery flower is native to Hawaii which usually grows on shrubs when planted directly on soil, but can grow on tall trees with time and care. The brilliant Ohia Lehua is deeply rooted and essential in Hawaiian culture and folklore – a legend tied to it says the Ohia tree and Lehua flower were once the passionate lovers, Ohia and Lehua, who were separated by an awful magic spell. It is said that when you pluck a Lehua flower off its tree, rain will pour within the day, signaling the lovers’ sadness from being separated again. You might want to think twice about bringing an entire flower home as a souvenir!
Anthuriums originally only grew on the hot soils of South America, until they were introduced to the island by Hawaii’s then Minister of Finance, Samuel Mills Damon. The heart-shaped beauty grows in shades of ruby and tangerine and can now be found in Hawaii’s rainforests and tended gardens. True to Hawaiian ideals, anthuriums are said to represent hospitality, abundance, and positivity.
Bird of Paradise
Known for its unique shape and deep colors, the Bird of Paradise is popularly used as interior ornaments in resorts, cafes, and other establishments in Hawaii. It’s a seasonal flower and may require careful maintenance due to its delicate nature. With uniquely pointed petals resembling a flame, it’s hard to miss even in the most flourishing gardens.
The Hawaiian Hibiscus, also known as pua aloalo or ma’o hau hele, is Hawaii’s state flower which grows almost everywhere on the islands. Strikingly attractive in bright yellow, this iconic flower may be a common sight especially during prominent Hawaiian festivals, but has a one-day lifespan even when on its shrub – you know it has wilted when you find it in a green state. It looks and feels delicate, hence it is considered a feminine flower in Hawaii and is usually worn by women or given to acknowledge a person’s beauty.
The pretty-in-white Gardenia flower grows all year round in the wild, and only from October to December when cultivated in a garden. It smells like the transition between spring to summer and has a hint of that coconut oil fragrance. It is a popular wedding bouquet trinket not only because of its daintiness, but also because it is known to symbolize trust, love, and purity.
Another Hawaiian blossom tied to several legends is the unique looking Naupaka flower. One of these stories tells about the beautiful Princess Naupaka and her lover, Kaui, who were cursed by the jealous volcano goddess, Pele. Pele’s sisters, taking pity on the innocent lovers, transformed the princess into Beach Naupaka and Kaui into Naupaka Mountain so that Pele may stop striking them with another spell. Having turned into separate formations, the lovers were eternally separated, which is why you’ll find this flower only blooms in half. It is said that they can be reunited when flowers growing from Beach Naupaka and Naupaka Mountain are picked and joined together.
Lastly, the Hawaiian Jasmine, locally known as Pikake, are the fragrant buds you see on iconic Hawaiian leis. It was brought to Hawaii in the 1800s and instantly became a favorite among Hawaiian royals. A symbol of love and hospitality, they are popular in Hawaii for birthdays, welcoming ceremonies, and anniversaries. Receiving a wreath is also a gesture symbolizing affection, friendship, or simply wishing a friend good luck.
There are plenty of other blossoms all over the Hawaiian islands, all bringing color and full of enduring stories, just like the ones on this list. The islands are popular for adventure and staycations, but another sure way to make your trip more unforgettable is to get acquainted with these flowers and filling your days with the tranquility and joy they bring.