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The state of Hawaii is a magical tropical island, a beautiful place that is known for its white-sand beaches, cool blue waters and rustling palm trees.
If you have ever had the chance to travel to this amazing country, then chances are you have experienced the rich culture that the island has to offer, as well as its various customs and traditions – such as a friendly kiss on the cheek, the celebration of Kamehameha Day and, of course, wearing a chain of hibiscus flowers around your neck.
Over the centuries, Hawaii as an island has become synonymous with this particular species of flower, with the vibrant bloom becoming a symbol often associated with the Polynesian people and their history.
But what about the other flowers that are native to Hawaii and its surrounding islands? Are there no other Hawaiian flowers that have a deeply rooted connection to Polynesian, and human culture at large?
Well to answer your question, we have compiled a list of the top 8 flowers of Hawaii, as well as their various meanings from around the world. So if you have ever been interested in the importance of flowers in human culture, then you have come to the right place.
It’s always a good idea to start with the classics and the hibiscus flower is about as classic as Hawaiian flowers come. This beautiful and vibrant flower can be found all over the island of Hawaii, where it is traditionally worn in women’s hair and chains around the neck.
The hibiscus flower represents beauty in Hawaiian culture and is usually worn by women to convey their marital status to potential suitors.
When a Hawaiian woman wears a hibiscus blossom behind her left ear, it means she is married. If she wears it behind her right, then she is single and looking for a suitable match.
The blossoms are known to bloom daily and can come in an array of different colours, with the yellow hibiscus being the official Hawaii state flower.
2. Bird Of Paradise
Although this particular species of flower is a South African native, it has also been successfully grown on the island of Hawaii, where its colourful plumage bears a great resemblance to a flamboyant bird.
In Hawaiian culture, birds are associated with positive emotions such as happiness and joy, and since the flower looks like a bird, it has also been associated with these positive connotations.
In South Africa, the bird of paradise is closely associated with themes of freedom and liberty, which could relate to the country’s freedom from apartheid.
The plumeria is a Hawaiian flower that commonly blooms in the spring, which means it has come to represent love, birth and new beginnings.
Like hibiscus flowers, plumerias are traditionally fashioned into chain necklaces called Leis, which were once worn exclusively by members of the Hawaiian royal family.
Now they are worn by tourists and natives alike and can usually be found in shades of yellow and pink. The flowers are also known to have a sweet aroma and are used to symbolize a woman’s relationship status.
In Buddhist cultures, plumerias represent immortality and are considered a sacred flower that is used to adorn temples and altars.
Although they are associated with Hawaii, the flowers are not native to the island and were introduced by a German botanist in 1860.
4. Red Tower Gingers
Red tower gingers are an impressive flower by all standards, with their vibrant foliage and impressive size giving them the appearance of a green spear that has been topped with a spiky red pinecone.
In Hawaiian culture, red tower gingers have come to represent ideals such as tolerance, wealth and diversity.
However, the tropical species also has a lot in common with roses, as the bright red hue of its blossoms has become closely associated with sexual passion and romantic love.
These beautiful flowers have been known to grow across the Hawaiian islands, with the species being a particular favourite on the Big Island. In fact, the Big Island is also referred to as ‘The Orchid Isle’, as it is where the most species of orchids have been known to grow.
In Hawaiian traditions, orchids are often associated with rare and delicate beauty, although they are also viewed as symbols of luxury and wealth.
In countries such as Greece, the fragrant flowers are known to represent virility and are considered a symbol of 14th wedding anniversaries around the world.
6. Pikake Flowers
If you have been searching for a species of flower that truly captures the essence of Hawaiian culture and history, then the Pikake flower is the one you seek.
Otherwise known as the Sambac Jasmine flower, this bright and delicate bloom is traditionally worn on the garments of hula dancers, or by the bride on her wedding day.
Known for their sweet and aromatic scent, the flowers are also given as offerings to honoured guests and feature heavily in Hawaiian celebrations. The name of the flower translates to ‘peacock’ as was originally named by the last ruler of Hawaii – Princess Ka’iulani.
Interestingly, this species of flower is also not native to Hawaii and originates from the country of India.
7. Ohia Lehua Flowers
Ohia Lehua flowers, otherwise known as Metrosideros polymorpha, are strange yet beautiful blooms that are closely associated with the mythical figure of Pele, the Polynesian goddess of volcanoes and fire. This is because these particular flowers are the first to grow on lava flows after a volcano has erupted.
The legend states that Pele was once in love with a mortal man named Ohia, who in turn, was madly in love with another woman called Lehua. Outraged by his blatant betrayal, Pele transformed Ohia into a tree and Lehua into the tree’s blossom.
Modern Hawaiians believe that if you separate the flower from the tree, then it will rain, as a symbol of the couples’ tears.
8. Naupaka Flowers
Naupaka flowers are commonly found across the Hawaiian islands, where they are known to grow by the beach or in the mountains. The flowers are named after a legendary Hawaiian princess, who fell in love with a commoner, only to realise that their love was doomed.
Heartbroken that she couldn’t be with the man she loved, Naupaka took a flower and ripped it in half, giving one piece to her lover before travelling to the mountains. This is why the flowers are known to grow in two specific areas, as a symbolic representation of the separation between the two lovers.