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Exploring the beauty of the islands’ flowers



Hawaiian flowers are famous for their beauty. From the well-known Plumeria to the exotic Bird of Paradise, Hawaii is a special place for flowers.

This article takes a closer look at these lovely flowers.

Hawaiian Flowers and Hawaii

Hawaiian flowers, called “blooms”, are really special. Hawaii is a group of islands in the middle of a big ocean, very far from other lands. Because of this, it is a bit like a secret garden for flowers.

The warm and sunny weather in Hawaii, along with its volcanic soil, helps all sorts of flowers grow. Some of them are found only in Hawaii. About 89 per cent of Hawaiian flowers cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

The islands’ unique setup, as a group of separate pieces of land, also helps different flowers develop in their way. Each island has its special climate and conditions for flowers to grow.

Animals like birds and bugs help these flowers make seeds and spread around the islands. So, Hawaii’s blooms have become special, all thanks to their isolated home in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Top 20 Hawaiian flowers you should know about

1. Plumeria: The lei flower

Plumeria: The lei flower

One cannot discuss Hawaiian flowers without starting with the iconic plumeria. These delicate, fragrant flowers are commonly used in making leis, the traditional Hawaiian garlands. Plumeria flowers come in various colours, including white, pink, yellow and red. Their sweet scent and vibrant petals make them a symbol of the Hawaiian spirit.

2. Hibiscus: The state flower

Hibiscus: The state flower
The Hibiscus, known locally as the “Pua Aloalo”, is Hawaii’s official state flower. It is famous for its large, bright and showy blossoms. Hibiscus flowers can be found in a spectrum of colours, but the yellow hibiscus is the state’s official representation. These blooms are not only visually stunning but are also used in traditional Hawaiian herbal remedies.

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3. Bird of Paradise: A tropical elegance

Bird of Paradise: A tropical elegance
The Bird of Paradise, also known as the “Safari Flower”, is an exotic tropical flower that gets its name from its resemblance to a bird in flight. With its vibrant orange and blue petals, it is a symbol of tropical elegance and paradise. These flowers are often used in Hawaiian floral arrangements and are a favourite among garden enthusiasts.

4. Orchids: A touch of exotic beauty

Orchids: A touch of exotic beauty
Orchids are known for their elegance and beauty and Hawaiian orchids are no exception. The Hawaiian archipelago is home to several native orchid species and these exotic flowers can be found in a myriad of shapes and colours. The sight of an orchid garden in Hawaii is truly a feast for the eyes.

5. Torch Ginger: The towering beauty

Torch Ginger: The towering beauty

The Torch Ginger is a unique and striking Hawaiian flower. Its large, vibrant red or pink petals tower above the rest of the garden, creating a dramatic visual impact. Beyond their ornamental beauty, these flowers are also used in traditional Hawaiian cuisine, adding a zesty and slightly spicy flavour to dishes.

6. Pikake: The fragrant jasmine

Pikake: The fragrant jasmine

Pikake, also known as Hawaiian jasmine, is known for its intensely sweet and exotic fragrance. These small, white, star-shaped flowers are often used in making traditional Hawaiian leis and perfumes. The aroma of pikake is said to be reminiscent of Hawaiian evenings, and it is a popular choice for wedding leis.

7. Naupaka: The legend of love

Naupaka: The legend of love

Naupaka is a unique and endearing flower, with a touching Hawaiian legend attached to it. It comes in two forms: the beach Naupaka and the mountain Naupaka. The legend tells of a love story between a princess and a commoner and the flowers are said to represent their love, with each form of Naupaka completing the other when brought together.

8. Heliconia: The lobster claw

Heliconia: The lobster claw

Heliconia, often called the “Lobster Claw”, is a tropical flower with a unique and distinctive shape. These vibrant blooms come in various shades, including orange, red and yellow. Heliconia’s striking appearance makes it a favourite in Hawaiian floral arrangements and gardens.

9. Tiare: The Polynesian fragrance

Tiare: The Polynesian fragrance

The tiare flower is a fragrant symbol of Polynesian culture and is often used in Hawaiian leis. These tiny, white blossoms have a rich, sweet scent that adds an extra layer of charm to the traditional Hawaiian garlands. Tiare is also a popular ingredient in local skincare products and perfumes.

10. Gardenia: The eternal love

Gardenia: The eternal love

Gardenia flowers are known for their pristine white petals and sweet fragrance. These blooms are associated with love and purity in Hawaiian culture. They are often used at weddings and other special occasions, signifying eternal love and affection.

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11. Bougainvillea: The paper flower

Bougainvillea: The paper flower

Bougainvillea is a colourful and prolific bloomer in Hawaii. It is known for its vibrant and papery bracts that come in shades of red, pink, purple and orange. While the bracts are the most eye-catching part of the plant, the tiny white flowers nestled within are fragrant and attract pollinators.

12. Red Ginger: A tropical stunner

Red Ginger: A tropical stunner

Red ginger, also known as “Awapuhi Ula Ula” in Hawaiian, is an exquisite tropical flower with bright red bracts. Its vibrant appearance and unique shape make it a popular choice for floral arrangements, adding a touch of tropical elegance to any setting.

13. Ilima: A symbol of royalty

Ilima: A symbol of royalty

Ilima is a small, yellow, star-shaped flower that holds a special place in Hawaiian culture. Traditionally used to make leis, Ilima is considered a symbol of royalty and is often associated with Hawaiian chiefs and nobility. These delicate flowers are a reflection of Hawaii’s rich history.

14. Puakenikeni: The fragrant blossom

Puakenikeni: The fragrant blossom

The Puakenikeni flower is known for its intense, sweet fragrance and bright orange or red blossoms. Its name, which means “ten-cent flower”, reflects the price these blooms used to fetch. Puakenikeni leis are highly sought after for their captivating scent and beauty.

15. Blue Jade Vine: A rare delight

Blue Jade Vine: A rare delight

The Blue Jade Vine is a rare and exotic flower native to the Philippines but also found in Hawaii. Its striking, turquoise-blue flowers hang in clusters, creating a stunning visual display.

16. Hinahina: The silver shoreline beauty

Hinahina: The silver shoreline beauty

Hinahina, also known as “Hinahina ku kahakai”, is a unique Hawaiian flower that thrives along the coastlines of the Hawaiian Islands. This remarkable flower is an endemic species, meaning it can only be found in Hawaii and it is, therefore, an integral part of the islands’ natural heritage.

Hinahina is known for its distinctive silvery-grey foliage, which gives it a striking appearance against the backdrop of Hawaii’s sandy beaches and azure waters. The word “hinahina” even translates to “grey” or “silver” in the Hawaiian language, perfectly describing the colour of its leaves.

17. Beach Morning Glory: A coastal beauty

Beach Morning Glory: A coastal beauty

Beach Morning Glory, also known as “Pohuehue”, is a coastal plant with trumpet-shaped flowers. These flowers range in colour from pink to purple and are often seen along the sandy shores of Hawaii. They are a testament to nature’s resilience, thriving in challenging beachfront conditions.

18. Koki’o: The Hawaiian hibiscus

Koki'o: The Hawaiian hibiscus

Koki’o is a native Hawaiian hibiscus that comes in various colours, including red, pink, yellow and orange. These hibiscus flowers are smaller than the common hibiscus and are known for their unique beauty. They are cherished for their connection to the Hawaiian Islands.

19. Ma’o Hau Hele: The beach sunflower

Ma'o Hau Hele: The beach sunflower

Ma’o Hau Hele, also called the Beach Sunflower, is a bright and cheerful coastal flower. Its yellow, daisy-like blooms thrive in sandy soils near the ocean. These sunflowers are a symbol of the Hawaiian coastline and the sun-drenched beaches of the islands.

20. Kanawao: The vibrant purple wonder

Kanawao: The vibrant purple wonder
Kanawao, scientifically known as “Kanawao Hui”, is a vibrant and distinctive Hawaiian flower which graces the islands with its rich purple blooms. This lovely flower is native to Hawaii and is known for its striking appearance, which adds a touch of natural beauty to their landscape.

Kanawao is characterised by its large, tubular purple flowers that are often adorned with delicate white markings. These flowers are visually captivating and have earned a special place in Hawaiian gardens and landscapes. The rich purple colour of Kanawao petals adds a pop of vibrant hues to the greenery of the islands.

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