How to Identify Hawaiian Tropical Flowers


Hawaii and tropical flowers go hand in hand as the 50th state is known for its vegetation and unique flowers. No matter where you are in the state, you are bound to run into flowers blooming around every corner, with many being native to specific islands. From ohia trees on the Big Island to hibiscus in Maui, there are some distinguishing features for you to tell tropical Hawaiian flowers apart from any other variety.

Step 1

Look up for flowering trees, such as the five-petaled pink and yellow plumeria, the willowy golden blossoms of the golden shower tree, or the red and orange flowers of the royal poinciana tree. Most commonly tropical flowering trees bloom from spring to early fall.

Step 2

Smell the flowers, as many favorite Hawaiian flowers have specific scents. The pua kenikeni, for example, has an intense sweet fragrance while the trumpet-shaped pakalana smells like a fresh lemon. Just hope you don't run into the carrion, a large tropical flower with a fragrance of rotting meat to attract pollinators.

Step 3

Look for colors distinctive to specific varieties, such as the state's official flower, the hibiscus. This flower comes in several colors, ranging from pink to orange to white or yellow. The well-known Hawaiian flower ilima has light yellow thin blossoms.

Step 4

Learn about the tropical flowers specific to each island, as they all have official flowers with meanings. Oahu's flower is the yellow ilima flower and is used during May Day celebrations. This is the flower leis are made out of, and it takes hundreds of them to make one single strand. Maui's flower is the pink lokelani rose that is shown often in parades. Lanai's flower is a low-growing beach vine, the orange kauna'oa. These thin strands are twisted together to create leis and come in orange and bright yellow colors. Niihau's flower is the white pupu shell, found on the shoreline of this rocky island.

Things You'll Need

  • Hawaiian plant identification book


  • Tropical Flowers Forum
  • Tradewind Fruits: Hawaii Plants
  • Hawaii Exotics: Hawaiian Flowers
  • Aloha Hawaii: Island Flowers
Keywords: Hawaii gardening, identifying tropical flowers, identifying Hawaiian flowers

About this Author

Lauren Wise has more than eight years' experience as a writer, editor, copywriter and columnist. She specializes in food, wine, music and pop culture. Her writing has appeared in various magazines, including "Runway," "A2Z," "Scottsdale Luxury Living" and "True West." Wise holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Arizona State University.