Being the only tropical state in the USA, Hawaii is an astounding place indeed. Its mild climate and soil abundantly fertilized with volcanic ash caused the abundance of various types of plants on the archipelago.
Hawaiian flora can be classified into two large groups. The first group comprises endemic plants whose seeds appeared on the archipelago naturally. Scientists say they were brought there by wind, ocean tides and on the wings of birds and insects. The second group includes non-native flowers and shrubs brought to Hawaii by immigrants. Of course, non-native plants have contributed to the diversity of flora on the archipelago, but at the same time they caused the extinction of many endemic species. As the environment gradually changed, these native species had to compete with the invaders for the new conditions and started dying out.
Nevertheless, Hawaii is still home to thousands of different stunning species. This article opens the door to the extraordinary world of rare Hawaiian flowers.
Native Hawaiian flowers
Koʻoloaʻula (or Abutilon menziesii) is a sprawling shrub endemic to several islands in the Hawaiian archipelago which, unfortunately, is on the verge of extinction. Scientists estimate that currently we can find only 500 koʻoloaʻula plants there due to the invasion of new plants and the urbanization. The pretty little flowers of koʻoloaʻula resemble hibiscus in shape and usually have different shades of red. They are commonly covered by large velvety green leaves. This rare plant usually grows up to 12 feet tall.
Ma’o Hau Hele
Ma’o hau hele is popularly known as the Hawaiian hibiscus. Sadly, these stunning flowers are also endangered and endemic to Hawaii. The cute yellowish flowers have a vibrant maroon center and they are the official flowers of the state of Hawaii. Although there are not many species left in the wild, the gardeners simply love this flower and regularly plant it. Why? Because it grows quickly and typically lives more than 5 years.
Frequently referred to as one of the most rare flowers on the Earth, kokia cookei (also known by the name of koki’o) is a rare tree found only on the Hawaiian Islands. What astounds most about kokia cookei is its numerous red flowers that please the eye annually. In the 1950s it was thought to be extinct, but the scientists have managed to preserve the population by grafting a single branch into 23 trees. They still exist now in some parts of the archipelago.
As a member of Papaveraceae family, Pua Kala is frequently referred to as the Hawaiian poppy. Pua kala easily spreads across the field, therefore it is often mistaken for a type of weed plant. However, it is easily distinguished by its white petals and bluish leaves. Despite the fact that pua kala flowers don’t bloom for a very long time, they can even survive wildfire. Pua kala is frequently used to keep the cattle away from more precious flowers due to its acidic flavor which is unpleasant for animals.
Gardenia brighamii (or simply Nanu) is a dry forest endangered species. Unfortunately, only about 15 plants currently grow in different parts of Hawaii. Its snowy flowers have 6 petals and they are surrounded by glossy green leaves. In the wild nanu can live for over 60 years, while under cultivation their life-span is about 15 years.
Cyanea macrostegia can be found in rainforests untouched by civilization. The locals call this peculiar plant with wrinkly and fuzzy leaves hāhā. It can grow up to 10 feet in height. When its buds resembling big hairy spiders unfurl, you can see pink starbursts. It also has dark blue berries, and its seeds are usually spread by birds.
Mamane (or Sophora chrysophylla) belongs to the Fabaceae family (it is a relative of beans) which is also found only on the archipelago. It can grow as a shrub or a tree and reach up to 60 feet. Mamane has yellowish flowers that are grouped together. You can even say that they resemble peas. These pretty flowers are commonly used in herbal medicine and religious rituals.
Despite the fact that these amazing flowers are found only in Hawaii, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot find something exotic in your city. Browse our catalog of exotic flowers and make your life more colorful.
Non-native Hawaiian flowers
Strelitzia reginae is originally from subtropical areas of Africa. Nevertheless, it is now largely cultivated in several places on our beautiful planet, including Hawaii. This amazing flower with peach, rosy and indigo petals is reminiscent of the head of an exotic bird, hence its name. Bird-of-paradise can be enjoyed all year, but most abundantly it blooms in late spring and summer.
The scientific name of the tuberose is Polianthes tuberosa, but the Hawaiians gave it another name – kupaloke. This beautiful white flower is native to Mexico. Its wonderful scent and tender petals were the main reason why tuberose was brought to Hawaii. Now it is largely cultivated and used in wedding leis. People choose to begin their married life with kupaloke, because it symbolizes love and commitment of the couple.
By the way, if you are planning the most special day too, look through our wedding catalog. There is no better way to start a family than to surround yourself with beautiful fresh flowers.
Heliconia rostrata can’t help but astound you by its peculiar shape and colors. It is often called the lobster claw plant, because of its vibrant bracts forming a cluster on the stem. Heliconia is originally from Peru and Costa Rica. In the wild it can easily reach up to 20 feet in height. Besides, heliconia looks marvelous in a vase, therefore it is commonly cut and sold.
Plumeria is regularly associated with Hawaii, but it was actually born in Mexico. The first plumeria variety that was cultivated in Hawaii was called Plumeria acuminata. The locals appreciated its yellowish blooms for their fantastic fragrant scent. Moreover, it didn’t require much care. Plumeria basically needs just the sun and water. That is why it is still largely cultivated and has so many varieties with petals of snowy, rosy, and many other colors.
This unusual plant called Alpinia purpurata comes from Malaysia. Red ginger has large maroon bracts with tiny white inflorescence. The local tribes used to utilize its stems as a herb for curing stomach aches. They also produced yellow dyes from its leaves. Now its smaller varieties are popular as decorations for the house.
Pikake is what the Hawaiians call Jasminum sambac, which comes from India. It was several times reported that the Hawaiian Princess Kaiulani adored these blooms and peacocks, and the name of these birds (in its modified form) began to be used to refer to jasmine. Pikake has a very fragrant scent and cream-white flowers that look like stars. They are also frequently cultivated for the production of leis.
Anthurium is a genus of herbs that were discovered for the first time in Mexico and Argentina. On the Hawaiian archipelago it appeared in 1889. Hawaii is often said to be “the capital of anthurium”, because the cultivation of these colorful flowers has since become one of the most popular Hawaiian industries. Anthurium is also called tailflower, as its tail-like flowers consist of close spirals standing on the spadix. Various species of anthurium are available in many colors and shapes.
Anthurium can be grown in a pot and used as a decoration for a flat. You can find it and many other beautiful plants in our catalog of potted plants.
So, as can be seen from our short excursion to the Hawaiian archipelago, the flora there is very diverse and peculiar. It is a shame that so many of native plants are now nearly extinct and exist only on the Hawaiian Islands. Gladly, scientists put much effort into protecting these species from extinction. We hope they will manage to do it, and Hawaii will still amaze us with the abundance of stunning flowers.