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Hawaiian Flowers: Tropical Beauty and Cultural Meaning

a close up of a flower

Hawaii remains one of the best locations for spotting flowers. Many varieties of Hawaiian flowers are colorful, bringing delicate lines and unique shapes that spark the imagination.

Let’s talk about Hawaiian flowers and the importance of these tropical island specimens.


Plumeria bloom in springtime
Plumeria bloom in springtime

These Hawaiian flowers flourish in the tropical island environment, although plumeria are not native to the islands. The flowers are known for their durability and are often added to leis worn around the neck or head during celebratory ceremonies.

These flowers smell sweet, spicy, or citrus, and their thick petals take a few days to lose freshness. Replant a plumeria branch in the ground, and it will grow roots and begin again!


Yellow hibiscus is the state flower of Hawaii
Yellow hibiscus is the state flower of Hawaii

The hibiscus flower doesn’t produce a scent, yet it makes up for this shortcoming in the delicate nature of its Hawaiian flowers. You’ll find this endangered shrub or tree below 3,000 feet in Hawaiian shrub lands, however, they are not found on Kaho’olawe and Ni’ihau islands.

As this plant grows, it tends to topple over and sprout new roots where the top branches touch the ground, leading to a wandering effect over time. As a result, this plant is known as “traveling green hau“.

Seize the day and gift this flower as a way to remind loved ones to treasure this moment.

Ohia Lehua

Ohia Lehua are sacred to Pele
Ohia Lehua grow in lava flow.

These Hawaiian flowers are endemic to six islands in the archipelago, and are usually one of the first plants to blossom in a lava flow. Perhaps this is why Hawaiian legend states that these plants are sacred to the volcano goddess Pele.

This plant varies in height and may grow close to the ground or up to 80 feet tall in some areas.

Bird of Paradise

This flower displays a shock of color emulating a bird in flight
This flower displays a shock of color emulating a bird in flight

Bird of paradise is native to South Africa but has been growing in Hawaii for many years due to its weather conditions. Not only does this plant offer brilliant oranges and purples when in bloom, but its seeds are also bright orange—even after the plant dies!

Scientists have found this pigmentation is created by bilirubin, which was previously thought to be found only in animal species.

Red Tower Ginger

Up close shot of a red tower ginger
Up close shot of a red tower ginger

This bright red plant is actually one of the invasive Hawaiian flowers, but it still brings a beautiful red color. Its flowers are actually white, and poke out from the red bract. Red ginger is known as “Jungle King” and is originally from Malaysia.

Hawaiian Flowers: Tropical Colors and Intoxicating Scents

Visitors to Hawaii will quickly realize the importance that flowers play within this culture. From volcano goddesses to wandering plants, and from “seize the day” reminders to the state flower, these flora remind us to treasure all species and what they represent. In short, you’ll discover a fantastic array of species on your trip to this Pacific state.

See how many flowers you can count on your next trip to the islands!