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Exploring the Enchanting Beauty of Hawaiian Native Plants

a tree next to a palm tree

Hawaii is often called “Paradise on Earth,” thanks to its stunning landscapes, pristine beaches, and vibrant culture. Its breathtaking scenery flourishes in a rich tapestry of native flora unique to these Pacific islands. Hawaiian native plants play a crucial role in the state’s ecosystem and biodiversity. They provide vital habitat and food for native wildlife, helping to maintain the delicate balance of Hawaii’s ecosystems. Moreover, native plants hold deep cultural significance for the people of Hawaii, featuring prominently in traditional ceremonies, art, and folklore.

Here are some of the most iconic Hawaiian native plants you’ll encounter when visiting the tropical state:

1. Kukui

The Kukui or Candlenut tree is native to Hawaii and is known for its round nuts used historically as a source of oil for lamps. Rich in fatty acids and with moisturizing properties, this oil is also valuable for skin care and traditional Hawaiian healing practices. Additionally, various parts of this tree are used in Hawaiian culture — from the wood for crafting tools and musical instruments to the leaves for ceremonies.

2. ‘Ōhi’a Lehua

The ‘Ōhi’a Lehua tree is a keystone species in Hawaiian forests, with its vibrant red flowers often used in lei-making or as offerings in rituals. In Hawaiian folklore, it represents the story of a handsome warrior named ‘Ōhi’a and a beautiful young woman named Lehua. When the volcano goddess Pele fell in love with ‘Ōhi’a, and he rejected her, she transformed him into a tree. In her sorrow, Lehua was turned into a flower on the same tree, allowing the two lovers to be together forever.

3. Pua Kala

Pua Kala — also known as the Prickly Poppy or Chalice Flower — is characterized by its striking yellow flowers and spiky leaves. While considered invasive in some regions, it holds cultural significance in Hawaiian herbal medicine. Traditionally, it was used to treat various ailments, including skin conditions and respiratory issues.

4. ‘Awa

‘Awa is a traditional Hawaiian plant featuring large heart-shaped leaves and small, spherical flowers. It is cultivated for its medicinal properties and ceremonial applications. Moreover, its roots are used to make Kava — a potent beverage known for its relaxing effects — often consumed during ceremonies and social gatherings.

5. Hinahina

Hinahina or Silversword is a unique plant found in the high-elevation Hawaiian regions, such as Haleakalā on Maui and Mauna Kea on the Big Island. Its silver leaves and striking appearance make it a unique and iconic symbol of Hawaiian flora, often featured in artwork and literature. It holds cultural significance as a symbol of strength and resilience, thriving in harsh environments and embodying the spirit of adaptation and survival.

6. Hala

The Hala or Pandanus tree is revered for its practical uses in Hawaiian society. Its leaves are traditionally used for weaving intricate mats, baskets, and other handicrafts. In Hawaiian culture, it is often associated with the goddess Hina — the mother of the Hawaiian people. Its fruit is regarded as a symbol of fertility and abundance and is sometimes used in fertility rituals or offerings to the gods.

7. Naupaka Kahakai

Naupaka Kahakai, commonly known as Half-Flower, is a coastal plant with unique half-flowers found in various locations across Hawaii. According to legend, it represents a tragic love story between a Hawaiian princess and a commoner, causing the flowers to split into two halves. Its distinctive appearance and romantic folklore make it a beloved symbol of love and devotion in Hawaiian culture.

8. Maua

Maua is a delicate flower prized for its sweet fragrance and ornamental beauty. It is commonly used in lei necklaces and floral arrangements, symbolizing friendship, hospitality, and affection. This plant is also valued for its medicinal properties, with extracts used in traditional Hawaiian remedies for various ailments.

Discover Diverse Hawaiian Native Plants at Botanical World Adventures

Immerse yourself in these Hawaiian native plants and more with Botanical World Adventures! With over 2,000 species of flowers and plants, a sprawling 10-acre arboretum, and an expansive jungle maze, we offer an unforgettable botanical experience. Create your own adventure with a self-guided tour or join guided tours led by our horticultural experts, offering a deeper understanding and appreciation of Hawaiian plants.

Botanical World Adventures also offers thrilling activities, including bike tours of the island and the Zip Isle Zip Line Adventure, featuring seven exhilarating zip lines and a suspenseful suspension bridge! Contact us at 808-731-1160 to book your visit today.