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Flowers In Paradise: Hawaii’s Stunning Blossoms


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Susan Lavery



Welcome to the Pacific Islands, a paradise of stunning landscapes, vibrant cultures, and breathtaking natural beauty. One of the most captivating aspects of this region is its remarkable array of flowers. From lush rainforests to sandy shores, the Pacific Islands are home to an abundant variety of blooms that add color and fragrance to the tropical air. In particular, the Hawaiian Islands boast a diverse collection of native flowers that hold deep cultural significance.


The importance of flowers in Hawaiian culture cannot be overstated. They are not merely decorative elements but are woven into the fabric of daily life, ceremonies, and celebrations. Flowers are used in lei-making, a cherished Hawaiian tradition, where they are strung together to create beautiful garlands that are worn or given as symbols of love, respect, and aloha.


While many floral species have been introduced to Hawaii over the years, there are several native flowers that hold a special place in the hearts of the local people. These flowers not only reflect the unique biodiversity of the islands but also tell fascinating stories about their origins and cultural significance.


This article will take you on a journey through the enchanting world of Hawaiian flowers. We will explore the iconic plumeria, the state flower hibiscus, the beloved ohia lehua, the exotic orchids, the vibrant protea, the tropical bird of paradise, and the heart-shaped anthuriums. Each of these blossoms has its own distinctive features and plays an important role in Hawaiian culture.


So, embark on this floral odyssey with us and discover the beauty and significance of the flowers that grace the Pacific Islands. Get ready to be mesmerized by their colors, intoxicated by their fragrance, and immersed in the rich cultural tapestry that they symbolize.


The Importance of Flowers in Hawaiian Culture

In Hawaiian culture, flowers hold a significant place as symbols of beauty, spirituality, and interconnectedness with nature. Flowers are not just accessories for decoration but are deeply intertwined with various aspects of daily life and cultural traditions.


One of the most cherished customs involving flowers is the art of lei-making. Lei is the Hawaiian word for garland or wreath, and it refers to a necklace or a crown of flowers. Lei-making is considered an art form that has been passed down through generations, with each flower and combination of flowers holding a specific meaning.


Leis are not only worn as decorative accessories but are also given as gifts to welcome visitors, honor special occasions, celebrate achievements, and show love and respect. The act of giving and receiving leis is a gesture of aloha, a Hawaiian concept encompassing love, harmony, and kindness.


Flowers are also utilized in various ceremonies and rituals. In traditional Hawaiian weddings, the bride and groom exchange leis as a symbol of their commitment and love. Flowers are woven into hula dances, a traditional dance form that tells stories through graceful movements. They are also used in religious ceremonies and offerings, as a way to connect with the divine and express gratitude.


Beyond their cultural significance, flowers hold deeper spiritual meanings in Hawaiian beliefs. Native Hawaiians believe that flowers, as manifestations of the gods and goddesses, possess powerful mana (spiritual energy). Each flower is associated with a specific deity and carries its essence, imbued with healing, protection, and blessings.


The beauty and fragrance of Hawaiian flowers have also inspired artists, writers, and poets throughout history. Their vibrant colors, delicate petals, and intoxicating scents have been depicted in paintings, songs, and literature, capturing the essence of the islands’ natural splendor.


Overall, flowers symbolize the connection between humans, nature, and the divine in Hawaiian culture. They serve as a reminder to appreciate and respect the natural world while fostering a sense of unity, love, and harmony within the community.


Native Flowers of Hawaii

The Hawaiian Islands are blessed with a rich diversity of native flowers, each with its own unique beauty and significance. These flowers have evolved over millions of years, adapting to the unique climate and volcanic terrain of the islands. Let’s explore some of the remarkable native flowers of Hawaii:


1. Lehua – The vibrant red blossoms of the ohia lehua are often associated with the volcanoes of Hawaii. Legend has it that the flowers are actually the tears of an ancient Hawaiian goddess named Lehua, who was separated from her warrior- lover, ‘Ohi’a. The flowers are found on the ‘Ohi’a tree, which is one of the first plants to colonize newly formed lava flows.


2. Naupaka Kahakai – This delicate half-flower has a unique shape, with five petals on one side and a half-flower on the other. According to Hawaiian folklore, the flowers represent a tragic love story of two lovers who were separated by the gods. One half of the flower grows near the ocean, and the other half can be found in the mountains, longing to be reunited.


3. Koki’o – The koki’o is a member of the hibiscus family and is endemic to Hawaii. This endangered flower comes in various colors, including vibrant red, yellow, and orange. Known for its large, showy blossoms, the koki’o is a symbol of strength and resilience.


4. Koa – While not a flower in the traditional sense, the koa tree yields beautiful, fragrant blossoms. The koa tree is native to Hawaii and is highly regarded for its strong wood, often used for crafting canoes and furniture. The blossoms of the koa tree are a symbol of the grandeur and connection to nature that the Hawaiian people hold dear.


5. Pua Aloalo – Also known as the Hawaiian hibiscus, the pua aloalo is the state flower of Hawaii. It comes in a range of colors, including yellow, red, orange, and pink. The pua aloalo graces the islands with its stunning beauty and serves as a reminder of the Aloha Spirit that is deeply rooted in Hawaiian culture.


These are just a handful of the native flowers that thrive in the Hawaiian Islands. Each flower tells a story, reflects the deep connection between nature and culture, and adds to the enchanting tapestry of Hawaii’s natural heritage. Next time you visit, take the time to stop and appreciate the native flowers that bloom in this tropical paradise.


Plumeria: The Iconic Hawaiian Blossom

When one thinks of Hawaiian flowers, the plumeria immediately comes to mind. With its intoxicating fragrance and exquisite beauty, the plumeria is an iconic symbol of the Hawaiian Islands. Also known as frangipani, the plumeria captivates visitors and locals alike with its vibrant colors and delicate petals.


The plumeria flower can be found in a variety of shades, including white, yellow, pink, and red. Each color holds a special meaning in Hawaiian culture. White plumerias symbolize purity and positivity, while yellow represents friendship and new beginnings. Pink plumerias are associated with love and romance, and red plumerias convey passion and desire.


Plumerias are not only visually striking but also possess a heavenly fragrance. The sweet scent of plumeria fills the air as the flowers bloom, creating an intoxicating and unforgettable aroma. It is no wonder that the plumeria is often used to make leis, adding a touch of elegance and allure to these traditional Hawaiian garlands.


Beyond its visual and olfactory appeal, the plumeria holds cultural significance in Hawaiian traditions. The flowers are often associated with the goddess Pele, the deity of fire, volcanoes, and the creative force. According to legend, Pele loves the scent of plumerias and is said to wear them in her hair.


Plumeria trees can be found throughout the Hawaiian Islands, with their distinctive branches and large, leathery leaves. They are resilient and drought-tolerant, thriving in the warm and sunny climate. The plumeria season typically occurs from spring to fall, when the trees are adorned with clusters of blossoms.


In addition to being a beloved symbol of Hawaii, plumerias have also found their way into various forms of art and crafts. The flowers are often depicted in paintings, jewelry, and even tattoos, capturing their timeless beauty and cultural significance.


If you have the opportunity to visit the Hawaiian Islands, be sure to seek out the enchanting sights and scents of the plumeria. Whether you encounter it along the sandy shores, in private gardens, or adorning the hair of locals, the plumeria is sure to leave a lasting impression, filling your heart with the spirit of aloha.


Hibiscus: The State Flower of Hawaii

The hibiscus, with its vibrant petals and striking beauty, holds a special place in Hawaiian culture as the state flower. Known for its dazzling array of colors and large, showy blossoms, the hibiscus is a symbol of the natural splendor and aloha spirit that defines the Hawaiian Islands.


Hawaii is home to a wide variety of hibiscus plants, with different species and hybrids displaying a range of colors, including red, yellow, orange, pink, and white. The most common variety, the yellow hibiscus (Hibiscus brackenridgei), is officially recognized as the state flower. It is also known as the Pua Aloalo and is celebrated for its sunny and cheerful disposition.


The hibiscus flower has deep cultural significance in Hawaiian traditions. Its delicate petals and vibrant colors are often associated with beauty, purity, and femininity. In ancient Hawaii, hibiscus flowers were worn by women to indicate their marital status and as adornments during festive occasions.


While the hibiscus is widely recognized as Hawaii’s state flower, it also holds symbolic importance in other cultures around the world. In many Asian countries, the hibiscus is revered as a sacred flower, often representing immortality, love, and beauty. It is used in various traditional medicines, perfumes, and ceremonial rituals.


The hibiscus has also found its way into Hawaiian cuisine. The flowers can be used to make tea, jams, and syrups, adding a unique and tropical flavor. Hibiscus tea, known as “roselle” or “sorrel” tea, is not only refreshingly delicious but also boasts numerous health benefits.


Today, you can find hibiscus flowers adorning the landscape of the Hawaiian Islands. Whether planted in private gardens, gracing public parks, or blooming along the coastlines, the hibiscus adds vibrant splashes of color to the tropical scenery.


When visiting Hawaii, take the time to enjoy the beauty of the hibiscus flower. Admire its intricate petals, marvel at its vivid hues, and allow its presence to remind you of the natural wonders and warm hospitality that the Hawaiian Islands have to offer.


Ohia Lehua: The Beloved Blossom of Volcanoes

Deep within the volcanic landscapes of Hawaii, a remarkable native flower blooms with vibrant resilience— the ohia lehua. Known as the “Beloved Blossom of Volcanoes,” the ohia lehua holds a special place in Hawaiian culture and mythology.


The ohia lehua, scientifically known as Metrosideros polymorpha, is a species of flowering tree endemic to Hawaii. It thrives in the volcanic soil and is often the first plant to colonize the barren lava flows, symbolizing the regeneration and rebirth of the land after volcanic eruptions.


One of the most striking features of the ohia lehua is its vibrant red blossoms, although it can also be found in shades of pink, orange, yellow, and white. These brilliant flowers are often seen dotting the landscapes of Hawaii, adding bursts of color amidst the lush greenery.


In Hawaiian folklore, the ohia lehua flowers are said to be the tears of the goddess Pele and her lover, ‘Ohi’a. The legend tells of their forbidden love and how Pele transformed ‘Ohi’a into a tree when he refused her advances. Heartbroken, Pele turned his friends into the vibrant red blossoms of the ohia lehua tree.


Due to their strong connection to Pele, the ohia lehua flowers are considered sacred and must be treated with respect. It is believed that picking these flowers will bring about rain, as the tears of Pele fall from the sky. Therefore, it is customary to admire the beauty of the ohia lehua without disturbing or plucking the blossoms.


Aside from their cultural significance, ohia lehua trees play a vital ecological role in Hawaii’s ecosystems. They provide essential habitat for native birds, insects, and plants, contributing to the overall biodiversity of the islands. The nectar-rich blossoms also attract native honeycreepers and other pollinators, aiding in the reproduction of these remarkable trees.


Unfortunately, ohia lehua trees have faced significant challenges in recent years due to the spread of a fungal disease called Rapid ‘Ohia Death. Efforts are being made to protect and preserve these iconic trees, as they are not only a cultural symbol but also an integral part of the Hawaiian forests.


Next time you wander through the volcanic landscapes of Hawaii, keep an eye out for the beloved ohia lehua blossoms. As you witness their vibrant colors standing against the backdrop of ancient lava flows, let the spirit of Pele and the resilience of these blossoms remind you of the awe-inspiring power and beauty of the Hawaiian Islands.


Orchids: Exotic Beauties of the Hawaiian Islands

When it comes to exotic flowers, orchids are among the most coveted and revered species worldwide. The Hawaiian Islands, with their lush tropical climate, are an ideal environment for these captivating blooms to flourish. From vibrant colors to intricate shapes, orchids add a touch of elegance and enchantment to the natural wonders of Hawaii.


Orchids are a diverse family of flowering plants, with thousands of species found around the world. In Hawaii, there are both native and introduced orchid species, each with its own unique characteristics. Some of the most common and stunning orchids found in the islands include dendrobiums, vandas, cattleyas, and phalaenopsis.


One of the reasons orchids thrive in Hawaii is the year-round warm climate and ample humidity. These conditions provide the perfect environment for their delicate and often vibrant blooms to emerge and flourish. Orchids can be found growing in various settings, including forests, gardens, and even as ornamental houseplants.


What makes orchids truly extraordinary is their incredible diversity in size, shape, and color. Some orchid species feature large, showy flowers that command attention, while others exhibit petite blossoms with intricate patterns and unique structures. From the classic white and pink to the fiery reds and vibrant purples, orchids showcase a breathtaking array of hues.


In Hawaiian culture, orchids hold special significance as symbols of beauty, luxury, and love. They are often used in lei-making, adding exquisite elegance to these traditional Hawaiian garlands. Orchid leis are treasured gifts and are commonly exchanged during special occasions and celebrations.


Aside from their aesthetic allure, orchids also play a crucial role in Hawaii’s horticulture and economy. The islands are known for their thriving orchid farms, where a wide range of orchid species are cultivated for sale and export. These farms attract visitors from around the world who are eager to witness the dazzling display of orchid varieties in full bloom.


Whether you encounter orchids in the wilderness of a rainforest, the well-manicured gardens of a resort, or the shelves of a local market, their exotic beauty is sure to leave a lasting impression. Take the time to appreciate the intricate details of these remarkable flowers and the skill and dedication it takes to cultivate and preserve their stunning presence in Hawaii.


Protea: Unique and Vibrant Blossoms

When it comes to extraordinary flowers that captivate with their unique forms and vibrant colors, Protea takes the center stage. These magnificent blossoms, native to South Africa but also thriving in the Hawaiian Islands, bring an exotic touch to the tropical landscapes of Hawaii.


The Protea family consists of a diverse range of flowering plants, including the iconic King Protea, Pincushion Protea, and Telopea. Known for their striking appearance and structural complexity, Protea flowers are truly a sight to behold. The large, bold blooms are composed of layers of colorful, petal-like bracts that surround a central cone of tiny, intricate flowers.


Hawaii’s warm and sunny climate, coupled with its fertile volcanic soil, provides an ideal environment for Protea cultivation. In fact, Hawaii has become one of the largest commercial growers of Protea outside of their native South Africa. These unique blossoms can be found adorning flower arrangements, bouquets, and even wedding decorations.


One of the most renowned members of the Protea family is the King Protea (Protea cynaroides). With its large, cup-shaped flower head that can measure up to 12 inches in diameter, the King Protea is a true showstopper. Its striking appearance, which typically features vibrant shades of pink, purple, and red, has earned it the nickname “King of Flowers.”


The Pincushion Protea (Leucospermum) is another popular variety that has found a home in the Hawaiian Islands. As its name suggests, the Pincushion Protea features blooms that resemble small, spiky pincushions. With a wide range of colors, including vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds, these unique flowers add a touch of drama and excitement to any floral arrangement.


Protea not only capture attention with their stunning beauty but also carry symbolic meanings. In general, these flowers are associated with transformation, courage, and diversity. They are often admired for their ability to thrive in diverse habitats and conditions, reflecting resilience and adaptability.


Whether you encounter Protea in a tropical garden or on display at a local florist, take a moment to appreciate the intricate details and vibrant colors of these extraordinary blossoms. Their unique forms and striking beauty are a testament to the diverse wonders of nature. Allow the presence of Protea to transport you to a world of elegance and enchantment, as they proudly adorn the landscapes of Hawaii.


Bird of Paradise: A Tropical Delight

Imagine strolling through the lush, tropical landscapes of Hawaii and coming across a flower that looks like a vibrant bird in flight – that’s the Bird of Paradise. With its striking colors and unique shape, the Bird of Paradise flower adds a touch of exotic beauty to the Hawaiian Islands.


The Bird of Paradise, scientifically known as Strelitzia reginae, is native to South Africa but has become an iconic symbol of the tropics, including Hawaii. Its name is derived from the resemblance of its vibrant orange and blue petals to the plumage of tropical birds, particularly the birds of paradise.


This stunning flower is comprised of several distinct parts that contribute to its bird-like appearance. The outer petals, known as the “sepals,” are vibrant and shiny, with a vibrant orange hue. They curve backward, resembling a bird’s wings. Inside the sepals, there are upright petals of blue and white, which form the “beak” of the bird.


Bird of Paradise flowers are not only visually captivating but also possess an intriguing structure. When fully bloomed, they unfold from the spathe, a boat-shaped bract that holds the individual flower buds. As they open, the blossoms form a display of intricate layers, creating a dramatic and elegant effect.


In addition to their remarkable appearance, Bird of Paradise flowers are associated with symbolisms of freedom, paradise, and joy. Their vibrant colors and bird-like shape evoke a sense of tropical paradise and evoke feelings of optimism and cheerfulness. In Hawaiian culture, these flowers are often used as decorative elements in celebrations and special events.


While the Bird of Paradise flowers are not native to Hawaii, the ideal climate and fertile soil of the islands have allowed them to thrive in various locations. They can be found in both private gardens and public parks, gracing the landscapes with their exotic charm and adding a touch of grandeur to the tropical scenery.


When you encounter a Bird of Paradise flower in Hawaii, take a moment to appreciate its distinct form and vibrant colors. Allow yourself to be transported to a world of tropical wonder as you witness the beauty and grace of this tropical delight, reminding you that paradise is indeed within reach.


Anthuriums: Heart-shaped Blooms

Anthuriums are a true gem among the tropical flowers found in Hawaii. With their striking heart-shaped blooms and vibrant colors, they add a touch of romance and elegance to the island landscapes. These unique blossoms have captured the hearts of locals and visitors alike, becoming synonymous with the beauty and charm of the Hawaiian Islands.


The Anthurium genus consists of hundreds of species, but the most commonly known and cultivated is the Anthurium andraeanum. These lovely flowers feature waxy, heart-shaped spathes that come in an assortment of shades, including red, pink, white, and even green. The brilliant spathes encase a spadix, which is a central column containing tiny, yellowish flowers.


One of the reasons Anthuriums have become so beloved is their ability to bloom throughout the year. Their long-lasting nature makes them a popular choice for floral arrangements, adding vibrant pops of color to weddings, parties, and other special events.


While Anthuriums are not native to Hawaii, their cultivation in the islands has flourished. The warm and humid climate, combined with the fertile volcanic soil, provides an ideal environment for these tropical beauties to thrive. Anthurium farms can be found on different islands, showcasing the variety of colors and sizes available.


In addition to their visual appeal, Anthuriums have symbolism associated with them. They are often seen as a symbol of love, hospitality, and friendship. In Hawaiian culture, Anthurium flowers are a popular choice for gifts and leis, representing warm feelings and good intentions.


Aside from their beauty and symbolism, Anthuriums also have practical uses. Their vibrant and glossy leaves are commonly used in flower arrangements and tropical foliage displays. The unique texture and glossy appearance of the leaves add depth and texture to floral creations.


When you come across Anthuriums in Hawaii, take a moment to admire their heart-shaped blooms and vibrant colors. Allow yourself to be enchanted by their elegance and charm, and feel the warmth and aloha spirit they represent. These heart-shaped blossoms are a true testament to the natural beauty and serenity found in the Hawaiian Islands.



The Pacific Islands, with their tropical climate and rich biodiversity, are a paradise for flower enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Among the vibrant array of blooms found in this region, the native flowers of Hawaii hold a special place, deeply rooted in the culture and heritage of the islands.


From the iconic plumeria with its intoxicating fragrance to the hibiscus, the state flower of Hawaii, each blossom reflects the beauty, diversity, and cultural significance of the islands. The ohia lehua is a symbol of resilience and volcanic regeneration, while orchids grace the landscapes with their exotic elegance. The unique Protea captures attention with its intricate structure, while the Bird of Paradise adds an exotic flair to the tropical scenery. Lastly, the heart-shaped Anthuriums symbolize love and hospitality.


Flowers are not merely decorative elements in Hawaiian culture but are woven into the fabric of daily life, ceremonies, and traditions. Lei-making, the art of stringing flowers into garlands, celebrates the love, respect, and aloha spirit that permeates the islands.


As you stroll through the beauty of Hawaii’s gardens, forests, and shores, take the time to appreciate the enchanting and diverse array of flowers that grace the landscape. Admire their vibrant colors, delicate petals, and captivating fragrances. Let these remarkable blossoms transport you to a world of natural wonders, cultural richness, and the spirit of aloha.


Whether you encounter the beloved plumeria, the iconic hibiscus, the resilient ohia lehua, the exotic orchids, the vibrant Protea, the tropical Bird of Paradise, or the heart-shaped Anthuriums, let their beauty and symbolism leave a lasting impression. Carry the essence of these flowers with you, as a reminder of the awe-inspiring beauty and rich cultural heritage found in the Pacific Islands.


Embrace the spirit of aloha and let the flowers of Hawaii bring joy, harmony, and connection to your life. Whether you are lucky enough to experience them firsthand or simply admire them from afar, may these blooms serve as a reminder of the natural wonders that grace the Pacific Islands and the cultural richness they represent.