From white kukui blossoms to pink cottage roses, these native Hawaiian flowers provide color and allure to each of Hawaii’s main islands.
Hawaii State Flower
The official state flower is the yellow hibiscus (hibiscus brackenridgei), also known as the pua aloalo. Hawaiians originally adopted the hibiscus flower (of all colors) as their official Territorial flower in the early 1920s. It wasn’t until 1988, however, that Hawaii’s legislature legally adopted the yellow hibiscus as the official state flower.
The hibiscus originated in Asia and the Pacific islands. It is believed that there were originally only five hibiscus species native to the Hawaiian islands. Subsequently, other varieties were imported, and growers began to develop unique hybrids to produce a variety of colors and sizes found today.
Each Hawaiian island has its own designated official flower:
Oahu’s flower is the yellow ilima (Sida fallax), which is a very popular flower used for leis. Each flower is about an inch across and somewhat resembles a small hibiscus. Early Hawaiians used ilima flowers as a cure for general illnesses. Juice from the pressed flowers was given to children, and pregnant women sometimes ate the flowers until childbirth.
Big Island Flower
The official flower of the Big Island is the red ohia, which is the blossom of the native ohia tree. Lehua blossoms can also be orange, yellow or white. The flower is often used for leis. It’s said that the lehua flower is sacred to Pele, Hawaii’s volcano goddess.
Kauai’s flower actually isn’t a flower at all: The mokihana (Pelea anisata) is a green berry grown only on the slopes of Mount Waialeale. Strung like beads and woven with strands of maile, these hardy berries have a scent of anise.
Maui’s flower is the pink lokelani (Rosa damascena), or pink cottage rose. Brought to the Islands in the 1800s, the lokelani is prized by gardeners for its beauty and fragrance. The lokelani is the only non-native plant to be recognized as the official flower of any of the Hawaiian islands.
The flower of Molokai is the white kukui blossom (Aleurites moluccana). These tiny white flowers are popular among Island lei makers.
Lanai’s flower is the kaunaoa, or yellow and orange air plant. Lei makers take the thin, light orange strands of this vine and twist them together to form leis.
Niihau’s designated “flower” is the white pupu shell, found on the shoreline of this rocky island. Even uninhabited Kahoolawe has its own official flower, the hinahina (Heliotropium anomalum), a silver-gray plant whose flowers and stems are used in lei making.