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Located in the central Pacific Ocean, the islands of Hawaii are home to a huge variety of tropical flowers. The flowers that can be found here are of great importance in terms of symbolism and significance for the Hawaiian culture, but not all of them have always been here. Keep on reading to find out more about:
* Hawaii’s official state flower
* Other official flowers
* The symbolism of Hawaii’s most popular flowers
* How to wear flowers in Hawaii
Hawaii’s Official State Flower
The islands of Hawaii are one of a kind. In fact, each island is represented by a particular flower, one that can best describe the island, which means that flowers weren’t chosen randomly, but in accordance with the color of the island.
The yellow hibiscus is the official flower of the state of Hawaii. In the Hawaiian language, this flower is also known as the pua aloalo and is one of the native species of the island. In early 1920, all varieties of the hibiscus flower were declared the official territorial flower, but the yellow hibiscus was legally selected to represent the state in 1959. The hibiscus blooms daily, but by the end of the day, the blossoms are gone.
Other Official Flowers
Oahu island is officially represented by the yellow ilima. It resembles a small Hawaii and it symbolizes love. The yellow ilima is also one of the most popular flowers from which a lei is made, the flower arrangements which people wear around their neck. In the past, this flower was used therapeutically.
The island of Maui is represented by pink lokelani, or the pink cottage rose. Although it isn’t a native flower, it is considered to be one of Hawaii’s official flowers and it has been cultivated for nearly 200 years now.
In Hawaii, even uninhabited islands have their own legitimate flowers. The Kahoolawe island’s official flower is hinahina, a silver-gray plant that is also used in coastal landscapes for its ability to suppress weeds.
The red lehua represents the Big Island of Hawaii and can be seen when the native ohia tree blooms. It has a variety of colors: white, yellow, orange, and red, the latter being the most suitable to describe the island’s fire goddess, Madame Pele.
The island of Molokai is officially represented by the white kukui flower, a tiny flower that is used in lei making. Even though the flower is white, the official color of the island is green, thanks to the green rural landscapes that can be seen there.
Kaunaoa, an air plant that grows on the beach, is the official flower for the island of Lanai. It is grown for lei making, but it is a parasite for other plants, therefore it shouldn’t be cultivated randomly.
The island of Kauai is officially represented by a flower that isn’t a flower in the first place. However, it is popular among the makers of lei because of its scent. We are talking about the mokihana, a berry that can only be found in wet slopes of Mount Waialelae. In making the lei, these berries are strung and woven.
The island of Niihau, also known as the Forbidden Island for the non-native Hawaiians, is officially represented by the white pupu shell. Although it isn’t a flower, this tiny shell can be found along the shores and is also used in making lei.
The Symbolism of Hawaii’s Most Popular Flowers
Hawaii has an abundance of tropical flowers. Some of the most popular flowers are used in lei making and are chosen based on their beauty and on how long they can last. The orchid, the bird of paradise, the red tower ginger, the pikake, the ohia lehua, and the naupaka are among the most well-known flowers of Hawaii, and the list goes on.
The orchid has a large variety of species and colors. However, the most common colors are white and purple and are used in making the lei. It is known to symbolize not only beauty but luxury and refinement as well. Four varieties of orchid are native Hawaiian flowers and they grow in the rain forest. Other species are natural or man-made hybrids.
The bird of paradise comes from South Africa and got its name based on what it looks like: a bird taking flight. It has orange and blue blossoms and can be found growing in the hibiscus bush. This flower symbolizes magnificence and is very popular in cut flower arrangements.
The red tower ginger has a bright red blossom that grows in the shape of a spiral. It resembles the outside of pineapple and symbolizes wealth and diversity. Moreover, it is thought to be a good sign to find one growing in the near surroundings.
The pikake flower is what you may know as jasmine. It was named pikake by Princess Kaiulani based on her favorite bird, the peacock. This flower has a light and gentle scent and it is often worn by brides, honored guests, and hula dancers.
The ohia lehua is linked to the volcano goddess, Pele, and it is known to be the first flower that starts growing after a volcanic eruption. If you pick this flower off the tree, it is said that it might start to rain, a symbol which takes back to the legend of how Pele transformed the man she loved, Ohia, into a twisted tree, because he was in love with another woman, Lehua. When Lehua asked for the return of Ohia, Pele transformed her into a blossom of the Ohia tree, so that they can always be together.
The naupaka flower has a unique shape that looks like half of the flower is missing. This flower is linked to a legend about the Princess Naupaka, who tore in half the flower from her hair when she couldn’t marry the man she loved.
How to Wear Flowers in Hawaii
Many of Hawaii’s most popular flowers become popular because of the ways in which they can be worn. To name a few, the Haku lei is the flower crown worn at weddings, birthdays and ceremonies. The lei is a traditional flower arrangement worn around the neck and can also include shells or nuts. Flowers can also be worn on the wrist, as a bracelet, or behind the ear, the latter being a statement for whether you are married or not, depending on how you are wearing it – left ear for married, right ear for single.