Flowers of Hawaii

Hawaii features a wide variety of unique flowering plants native to the islands. Many of these plants provided food, medicine and symbolic decorations to the ancient peoples pf the islands. Some of the plants appear on the endangered species list. Learning about the flowers and other plants of Hawaii remains one of the most important steps in preserving these unique beauties.

Viola (Viola chamissoniana)

The Hawaiian name for viola is pamakani or 'olopu. Four viola species are native to Hawaii, including Viola chamissoniana, and appear on the threatened species list. Viola chamissoniana remains the rarest with just six known populations existing on the island of Oahu. A member of the violet family, viola grows as a shrub with beautiful pink flowers resembling orchids appearing in April, August and October. The plant grows on dry cliffs in mesic shrublands at elevations of 2,000 to 3,000 feet.

Vaccinium (Vaccinium reticulatum)

The vaccinium, or blueberry bush, primarily grows on the islands of Maui, Hawaii, Kauai, Oahu and Molokai. The Hawaiian names for vaccinium include 'ohelo and 'ohelo 'ai. The small shrub grows up to 4 feet in height and features leathery, oval leaves that grow to more than an inch long. The long, tubular flowers appear in shades of red, yellow or greenish-yellow in April to September followed by small reddish fruits. The fruits take between 50 and 60 days to ripen into edible berries containing 50 to 200 seeds, which must be removed before eating. The flowers from the bush also appear in leis.

Sesbania (Sesbania tomentosa)

Also known as 'ohai, sesbania grows as either a spreading shrub or as a tree growing up to 15 feet in height. The endangered plant grows in dry areas below 2,500 feet in elevation on all of the main islands. The branches of the shrub consist of rows of leaves with clusters of two to nine pea-shaped flowers hanging below the branches. The 1-inch flowers, used in leis, range in color from bright orange to red and, rarely, yellow. The plant also produces long narrow seed pods that grow up to 9 inches long and turn pale brown when mature.

Santalum (Santalum freycinetianum)

Santalum, or 'iliahi in Hawaiian, grows as a 3-foot tall shrub, but it can also grow as a 40-foot tree. The tree grows on ridges and slopes in moist forests at elevations ranging between 1,300 to 2,100 feet on Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui and Kauai. Also referred to as sandalwood, the tree gets many of its nutrients from roots of nearby plants. Santalum sports drooping branches with papery leaves reaching up to more than 4 inches in length. New leaves appear tinged with purple although they turn green once mature. The fragrant flowers grow in clusters at the ends of the branches. The tiny bell-shaped blossoms appear dark red to greenish yellow on the outside and dark red on the inside.

Keywords: flowers of Hawaii, tropical flowers, leis

About this Author

Nancy Wagner is a marketing strategist, speaker and writer who started writing in 1998. Her articles have appeared in "Home Business Journal," "Nation’s Business," "Emerging Business," "The Mortgage Press," "Seattle: 150 Years of Progress," "Destination Issaquah," and "Northwest," among others. Wagner holds a Bachelor of Science in education from Eastern Illinois University.