Flowers and Plants of Hawaii

It is no wonder that so many people choose to take their vacations in the paradise of Hawaii. Known for its natural beauty, the islands are home to many fragrant species of tropical flowers. The exotic blooms of these species are an instantly recognizable Hawaiian symbol; these blossoms have been used in tattoos, weddings, and even décor, both on the mainland and in the islands. Botanical gardens throughout the islands provide ample opportunity to see these species and many more; of course, dozens of species grow wild on each of the Hawaiian Islands.

In Hawaii, leis made of beautiful tropical flowers are given as a gift on many occasions; visitors often receive one of these wreaths upon their arrival in Hawaii. The lei is most often made of Plumeria blooms, which are pink or white and very delicate.

Flowers and Plants of Hawaii

Photo by Phillie-Casablanca of Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/philliecasablanca/

Another flower often used for lei wreaths is the lehua blossom. Known for bright flowers and soft, needle-like pedals, this species is the official flower of the Big Island. This flowering tree is considered by native Hawaiians to be sacred to Pele, the volcano goddess, and to the goddess of hula, Laka.

A well-known flower that has made its way into countless tattoos and other representations of Hawaiian culture, and is thought to best represent ‘aloha’ and all things Hawaii, is the yellow hibiscus. Known to native Hawaiians as the pua aloalo, this has been considered Hawaii’s official flower since the 1920s.

Hibiscus flowers are very large, and are often found both in leis and decorating the side of a fruity tropical drink. This plant also has many other traditional uses, ranging from teas and jams to herbal remedies for dandruff, nausea, and wound dressing. When placed behind the ear of a woman, this flower indicates whether she is available for a relationship. Giving a hibiscus as a gift means “seize the day,” since the blooms only last a day or so.

The hibiscus is also found in white, purple, pink, and red, and is very fragrant. There are over 200 distinct varieties of this flowering plant. Though only seven are native Hawaii, you are likely to see dozens of other varieties on Hawaii; these have been imported from other tropical climates around the world.

Flowers and Plants of Hawaii

Photo by suchitra of Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/chitrasudar/

Each island also has its own official flower. On some islands, their official bloom is quite plentiful, and you are likely to see it while on vacation. In others, the flower variety is quite rare or even endangered, and you would be lucky to see it without a visit to a botanical garden.

Although many people associate orchids with Hawaii, there are actually only three orchid species that are native to the islands. The rest have been imported. Other exotic flowers that can be seen around the islands include the heliconia, or bird of paradise, with a unique wax-like appearance. This is often cited as the most exotic-looking plant on the islands.

Besides flowers, there are also many other unique plants seen in Hawaii. For example, fruit trees, including avocado, banana, mango, papaya, breadfruit, and macadamia, grow abundantly throughout the islands. Lychees, which are shaped like grapes with a hard coating, are a prized fruit; these trees grow wild throughout Hawaii. The Koa Tree, found at higher elevations, is found only in Hawaii. This hard wood is used for canoes, bowls, and furniture. If you look around the islands, you’ll surely be dazzled by the array of flowers, plants, and trees that you see.

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