Flora and Fauna: Iconic Plants Native to Hawai‘i

September 01, 2023

Flora and Fauna: Iconic Plants Native to Hawai‘i

Beyond its stunning views, the Hawaiian Islands are home to a remarkable array of native plants that have evolved over millions of years in isolation. These iconic plants not only showcase the incredible biodiversity of Hawaii, but also hold cultural significance for the local communities. Let’s take a closer look towards the plants within Hawai‘i’s lush landscape. 

  1. ʻŌhiʻa Lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha)

One of the most recognizable plants in Hawai'i is the ʻŌhiʻa Lehua tree. With its vibrant red blossoms, the ʻŌhiʻa Lehua holds a special place in Hawaiian mythology and culture. It is often associated with the volcanic goddess Pele, and its blossoms are considered sacred. Legend has it that if you pluck a blossom from the tree, it will rain, symbolizing the tears of Pele. The tree itself is hardy and can be found at varying elevations across the islands, showcasing its adaptability and resilience.

  1. Hala (Pandanus tectorius)

The Hala tree, also known as the "screw pine," is an essential part of Hawaiian culture. Its unique aerial roots and spiral arrangement of leaves make it instantly recognizable. The leaves are traditionally used for weaving intricate mats, baskets, and other crafts. Hala trees are often found near the coast, and their presence highlights the strong connection between the Hawaiian people and the ocean.

  1. Koa (Acacia koa)

The Koa tree, often referred to as the "warrior tree," is highly valued for its dense and durable wood. Historically, Koa wood was used to craft canoes, weapons, and tools. Its fine woodgrain and warm hues make it sought after for furniture and artistry today. Due to overharvesting, efforts are being made to preserve and restore Koa populations, emphasizing the importance of sustainable practices in protecting Hawai'i's natural resources.

  1. Ma'o Hau Hele (Hibiscus brackenridgei)

The Ma'o Hau Hele, or Hawaiian yellow hibiscus, is the state flower of Hawai'i and is found only in the Hawaiian Islands. This stunning flower is a symbol of grace and beauty and holds a significant place in Hawaiian culture. Its bright yellow petals and delicate form make it a favorite among both locals and visitors. Conservation efforts are in place to protect this endangered species and ensure its survival for generations to come.

  1. Pua Aloalo (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

The Pua Aloalo, or Hawaiian hibiscus, is another iconic flower known for its vibrant and diverse colors. It has become a symbol of hospitality and the laid-back island lifestyle. From traditional uses in medicine to modern landscaping, the Hawaiian hibiscus has left an indelible mark on the cultural and natural landscape of the islands.

The native plants of Hawai'i offer more than just visual beauty; they tell stories of cultural heritage, resilience, and a deep connection to the land. From the legendary ʻŌhiʻa Lehua to the functional Hala and the symbolic Ma'o Hau Hele, each plant plays a crucial role in shaping Hawai'i's identity. As we continue to appreciate these iconic plants, let us also commit to preserving and protecting their delicate ecosystems, ensuring that their beauty and significance endure for generations to come.