Often considered exotic, even rare, tropical plants grow naturally in many of the warmest climates in the world. Hawaii, in particular, boasts the growth of an abundance of tropical plant species. Many tropical plants are prized for their beauty and for the production of furniture and other items. Some are even used for medicinal purposes.
These flowering trees can reach 50 feet or more in height and 10 to 25 feet in diameter. They produce clusters of small, yellow flowers that are shaped like powder puffs. Seed pods can reach 12 inches in length 1 inch in width. Wood from acacia koa trees is one of the most expensive anywhere in the world because of the brown, golden-brown and red shades of the wood grain. These trees are common in Hawaii, being found on all but two of Hawaii's main islands. Early Hawaiians used the decorative wood of acacia koa trees to build war canoes. The wood was also used for canoe paddles, grass house framing and as a dye for cloth. In modern Hawaii, acacia koa wood is used to make instruments, furniture and carvings.
This shrub reaches up to 1.5 meters in height and forms clumps up to 3 meters in diameter. Bright yellow flowers appear singly or in clusters. Oil from these plants is extracted and used to produce cottonseed oil. The flowers were traditionally used to produce a yellow dye; both the flowers and seeds of Hawaiian cotton are used to make leis. Unlike other species of gossypium whose flowers close at night, the flowers of Hawaiian cotton remain open in the dark.
This tropical plant grows as a shrub or small tree. It can reach 7 meters in height and has rough, oblong leaves. Large, colorful flowers appear singly at the ends of branches. The flowers may be orange, red or yellow. The fibers of Koki'o were once used by early Polynesian settlers to produce cordage and outrigger structures. The plant is used for medicinal purposes in a number of ways. Juice from the leaves and buds is used as a laxative, while the roots are used to soothe the digestive and respiratory tracts. The flowers are sometimes used as an astringent.