It is no wonder why many people vacation in the tropical paradise of Hawaii, known for its extraordinary beauty. Hawaii is home to dozens of exotic plants and animals, including many species of fragrant tropical flowers that have become an immediately recognizable symbol of the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii’s most popular flower species are used in tattoos and featured in weddings and home décor, both in Hawaii and on the mainland. Dozens of species grow wild throughout the island, and many more can be viewed in botanical gardens located throughout the islands.
These beautiful flowers are used for many Hawaiian traditions. Among these, the most well-known is the giving of flower wreaths known as leis. This gift is hand woven, and meant for wearing around the neck or head. When vacationing in Hawaii, you may even receive a lei as a symbol of welcoming upon your arrival. Many leis are made of plumeria, one of the most popular Hawaiian flowers.
Another flower that is commonly used in leis is the lehua blossom. Known for bright flowers and soft, needle-like petals, it is the official flower of the Big Island. Native Hawaiians consider this flower sacred to Laka, the goddess of hula, and Pele, the volcano goddess.
The hibiscus is one Hawaiian flower that is familiar to many on the mainland. The yellow hibiscus, which has been considered Hawaii’s official flower since before statehood, is seen in tattoos and other symbols of island culture, such as leis. It is frequently used to decorate the side of a tropical drink, and is said to be the flower which best symbolizes ‘aloha,’ or the island spirit.
The hibiscus is known to native Hawaiians as pua aloalo. Giving a hibiscus as a gift has come to symbolize “seize the day,” because the blooms are short-lived. Besides its decorative uses, the hibiscus has also been used for teas and jams, as well as traditional herbal remedies for dandruff, wound dressing, nausea, and other purposes.
The hibiscus flower is very large, and is often found in white, purple, pink, and red, in addition to the most popular yellow variety. In fact, there are over 200 distinct varieties of the hibiscus. Only seven of these are native to Hawaii, you are likely to see many other varieties on the islands which have been imported from around the world.
While the hibiscus is Hawaii’s state flower, each island also has its own official flower. Some islands have chosen a bloom that is quite plentiful throughout the island, while others are rare or even endangered, and not often seen outside botanical gardens.
Although orchids are one of the flowers that is strongly associated with Hawaii, there are only three species of orchid that are native to Hawaii; the rest have been imported. Other exotic flowers that you may see throughout Hawaii include the heliconia, better known as the bird of paradise. Its unique wax-like appearance has earned it a reputation as the most exotic-looking plant on the islands.
There are also many non-flowering tropical plants that are seen in Hawaii. These include fruit trees such as banana, papaya, mango, and breadfruit, which grow abundantly here. A prized Hawaiian fruit is the lychee, which is shaped like a grape with a hard coating. One tree found only on the island is the Koa Tree, which grows at higher elevations. Its hard wood has been used for canoes, furniture, and bowls.
When visiting Hawaii, you’re sure to be dazzled by the array of tropical flowers, plants, and trees, both in the wild and in Hawaii’s well-known botanical gardens. Many of these exotic species are not found anywhere else in the world.