Top 15 Best Hawaiian Flowers

Best Hawaiian Flowers
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Best Hawaiian Flowers: Hawaii archipelago is famous for its lush greenery, blue waters, and unique animals. Still, many plants one usually associated with this region were in fact introduced after James Cook has arrived there.

Suggested Reading: Best Native Hawaiian Birds

Best Hawaiian Flowers

This page is devoted to genuinely unique Hawaiian flowers that cannot be found anywhere else.

1

Metrosideros polymorpha

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Plantae Myrtales Myrtaceae Metrosideros Metrosideros polymorpha

Metrosideros polymorpha

Locals call this First Hawaiian flower plant as the Ohia tree. It is a species of an evergreen tree that is endemic to Hawaii.

  • It belongs to the myrtle family and is distantly related to cloves and eucalypti.
  • Ohia trees can differ in height from small bushes to towering forest trees.
  • These trees can be easily recognized by their grey, scaly bark and bright red flowers with extremely long stamens.
  • Ohia trees have a massive significance for local species, as well as members of aboriginal tribes of Hawaii.

Interesting facts:

  • These trees are the primary nesting ground and source of food for local endemic Bird SpeciesHawaiian honeycreepers.
  • The petals of Ohia tree flowers are extremely short what an onlooker perceives as a flower is actually the flower’s stamen.
  • This tree is the first growth on the fresh lava flows.
  • Sometimes, ohia tree saplings grow as epiphytes in fern forests.
  • The locals believe that flowers of Ohia tree bring rain. Therefore, they tried not to pick these flowers when they were entering the forest, in order not to get caught by the downpour. When leaving the forest, one may take a flower to bring rain to their crops.

2

Sesbania tomentosa

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Plantae Fabales Fabaceae Sesbania Sesbania tomentosa
Sesbania tomentosa
Source: Wikimedia

These endemic Hawaiian plants can grow to different heights. They can either grow as shrubs with horizontal or arching branches, or they can grow up to 15 feet plant.

  • Their leaves resemble those of acacia, are located in rows on one stem. Each stem has two rows of oval silver leaflets covered with short hair.
  • The flowers of those trees have bright pea-shaped flowers that grow in clusters.
  • The flowers can be deep red, salmon or sometimes yellow. The seeds of this tree grow in pods.

Interesting facts:

  • The leaves at the stem can emit a scent similar to nectarines on hot and sunny days.
  • These endangered plants are rare on main islands and are extinct on Ni`ihau island.
  • One of the common names of this flower is Oahu riverhemp.
  • Before slowly dying out, the flowers of these plants were traditionally used in lei wreaths.
  • In the wild, a single plant can cover several square meters of land.

3

Argemone glauca

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Plantae Ranunculales Papaveraceae Argemone Argemone glauca
Argemone glauca
Source: Wikimedia

The next Hawaiian flower is a Hawaii’s endemic plant that can be found only on the island O’ahu, on rocky terrain.

  • These flowers grow from 1 up to 3 feet high. They have typical blue-green stems with leaves covered in yellow spikes.
  • Though this flower is often named Hawaiian poppy, it is quite unlike the European version: it is round and white with yellow stamens.
  • The stigma in the center is lobed and colored purple inside. If the plant is damaged, it will ooze yellow sap. The seeds grow in dark, dry pods.

Interesting facts:

  • The locals call this flower Pua Kala.
  • Interesting fact: these plants are poisonous. The locals knew how to use them for treatment. The seeds and saps are used for treating toothache and neuralgia because it has both narcotic and analgesic properties.
  • Each argemone flower lasts only a day, but in the blooming season, one can expect new flowers daily.
  • These flowers are useless for bouquets – they wilt immediately.
  • This plant is very prickly – stems, leaves, and capsules with seeds are hard to touch. It can be used in landscaping as a “path guardian” because of it.

4

Abutilon eremitopetalum

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Plantae Malvales Malvaceae Abutilon Abutilon eremitopetalum
Abutilon eremitopetalum
Source: Wikimedia

This plant is a shrub. It has typical heart-shaped leaves with toothed edges. The leaves are covered with soft short hairs.

  • The flowers look green; however, the outer flowers are formed by the green sepals.
  • The other prominent part of the flower is the stamen column, which can be identified as a cluster of yellow, red, or white balls that sit on a long stem that goes beyond the actual flower.
  • This shrub is extremely rare. These Hawaiian flowers form cylindrical fruit around half an inch in diameter.

Interesting facts:

  • Abutilon fruit is usually covered in brown or white fuzz.
  • The real color of the flower petals is also green. Sometimes, the lime green petals can have a spot of red which are entirely hidden by sepals. There are only 3 species of maple with flowers like that.
  • The common local name for this plant is hidden-petalled illima.
  • There is only one place where this plant can be found – at the height of approximately 300 m at the Lana`i island.
  • This plant is threatened by introduced exotic species, such as lantana.

5

Geranium arboreum

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Plantae Geraniales Geraniaceae Geranium Geranium arboreum
Geranium arboreum
Source: Wikimedia

This flower is endemic to Hawaii and can be found on Maui island only. It is listed as endangered on the federal level.

  • This shrub can grow quite high – up to 4 meters in height. The leaves of this geranium species have “teeth” on the edges.
  • The flowers of the plant are very bright, can be colored red or magenta. One can also find this geranium in the National Haleakala park.

Interesting facts:

  • The common name for this flower is red cranesbill.
  • This unique geranium is the only species in its genus pollinated by birds, especially honeycreepers such as entirely.
  • According to specialists, this geranium species is so rare it can be found in only nine isolated populations, and there are no more than 50 individual plants left in total.
  • These flowers thrive in moist, shady gulches.
  • The main enemies of this plant are wild pigs and grazing cattle, as well as competition from introduced species.

6

Hibiscus brackenridgei

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Plantae Malvales Malvaceae Hibiscus Hibiscus brackenridgei

Hibiscus brackenridgei

The locals call this shrub Ma’o Hau Hele. The Western name is Brackenridge’s Rosemallow.

  • This Hawaiian flower plant is a shrub that can grow to a different height.
  • The bark of the plant is smooth while the plant is young.
  • As these plants grow, the trunks may develop wrinkled bark. The leaves are fuzzy, with toothed edges and dark green.
  • The flowers of this hibiscus are large and bright yellow and often form small clusters. This plant needs sunny spaces to grow.

Interesting facts:

  • This flower is an official state flower of Hawaii. It is also endangered.
  • The translation of the native name means “traveling green hau“. When the plant grows too high, it may fall over, and the fallen branches may spread new roots. There was a report about a particular shrub that has “traveled” this way about 20 feet.
  • In order to cultivate these flowers, gardeners need to pollinate them manually to prevent hybridization.
  • The state of Hawaii has changed its state flower from red hibiscus to yellow hibiscus in 1988, as it was the only known yellow hibiscus species.
  • There are two subspecies of this flower; each grows in individual islands.

7

Bidens cosmoides

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Plantae Asterales Asteraceae Bidens Bidens cosmoides
Bidens cosmoides
Source: Wikimedia

The next Hawaiian flower is a woody climbing plant that can grow up to 6-8 feet high. The branches can sprout their own roots if they touch the soil.

  • The leaves are long and are composed of 3-8 smaller leaflets. The flowers are bright yellow, with long bell-shaped petals that resemble those of a daisy.
  • They also have typical messy looking stamens. Bidens flowers usually look downwards in small clusters.
  • The plant tends to grow in damp forests.

Interesting facts:

  • The common name for this flower is Cosmosflower beggarticks.
  • These flowers are often used for lei-making.
  • This plant is endemic to Kauai island.
  • The locals call this flower Po’ola Nui. It is the largest among so-called ko ‘oko’olau flowers (the collective name for the flowers in the genus Bidens).
  • The leaves of this flower were traditionally used in hot tonics and teas before the Westerners found the islands.

8

Brighamia insignis

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Plantae Asterales Campanulaceae Brighamia Brighamia insignis

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This plant is often called a Hawaiian palm but is actually a succulent. This flower has a typical succulent stem that is wider below.

  • It has a cluster of spoon-shaped, leathery dark green leaves on the upper side.
  • The flower stems grow directly from the cluster of leaves. The tubular flowers are usually white or yellow.
  • The flower grows on Kauai island exclusively. It is both endemic and critically endangered.

Interesting facts:

  • One of the names for the flower is cabbage-on-the-baseball bat or cabbage on a stick!
  • This plant is often cultivated for protection against slugs and African snails in the garden.
  • The plant is dying out because the moth that used to pollinate it has gone extinct.
  • There is a theory that the local tribes were growing this plant because its seeds have medicinal properties, though nobody knows exactly what they were.
  • The scent of this flower is similar to honeysuckle.

9

Sophora chrysophylla

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Plantae Fabales Fabaceae Sophora Sophora chrysophylla
Sophora chrysophylla
Source: Wikimedia

This tree can grow up to 12-meter-high and has compound leaves.

  • The leaflets of the Sophora chrysophylla tree are thick, dark green and oblong grouped in two rows on the same stem.
  • The flowers are bright yellow and form small clusters at the tips of the branches.
  • The form of the flowers is typical for the pea family, to which this plant also belongs.
  • The trees carry their seeds in long seed pods that resemble a necklace. One can see Sophora chrysophylla plants in uplands and in dry forests.

Interesting facts:

  • As in the case with many Hawaiian endemic plants, these trees are endangered.
  • The local name for this plant is Mamane trees.
  • Sophora chrysophylla flowers serve as the primary food source for local honeycreepers that feed on its nectar.
  • One honeycreeper, in particular, a rare Palila bird, feeds on its seeds.
  • The seeds of Sophora chrysophylla are poisonous, and only two species can tolerate them.

10

Broussaisia arguta

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Plantae Cornales Hydrangeaceae Broussaisia Broussaisia arguta
Broussaisia arguta
Source: Flickr

This Hawaiian plant belongs to the same family as the common hydrangea.

  • It is an upright shrub with leaves that grow opposite each other, forming whorls.
  • The leaves of the flower are oblong, narrow at the end, with deep-seated veins.
  • The flowers themselves have prominent stamens and small, curled petals.
  • They form big clusters. They are colored violet, brown or black.
  • The plant also produces black, small berries that were said to be eaten by the Hawaiians.
  • This plant is endemic to Hawaii. The local name of this plant is Kanawao.

Interesting facts:

  • The locals call this plant Kanawao.
  • This plant can spread both with the help of seeds and by sprouting new roots.
  • There are only one species in the genus Broussasia.
  • Pigs that were brought to Hawaii often dig under the plants and damage roots. Fencing small colonies of these plants from the pigs have considerably helped in restoring them.
  • A species of spiders called “happy face spiders” are known to hide under Kanawao leaves.
Suggested Reading: Explore what do spiders eat?

11

Argyroxiphium sandwicense subsp

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Plantae Asterales Asteraceae Argyroxiphium Argyroxiphium sandwicense

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This Hawaiian flower plant can be found on the summit of Haleakala national park on Maui, as well as on Mauna Kea.

  • It is known to the scientists as Hawaiian silversword.
  • This plant is acclimated to heights. In the non-flowering period, the silversword looks like a rosette of spiky, silver-grey leaves.
  • The flowers are bright red or purple and grow downward from the general stem.

Interesting facts:

  • The silversword blooms only once in its life and then dies.
  • The silversword’s flowers grow several times as high as the rosette at the base.
  • This Hawaiian flower is one of the rarest plants in the world. The local authorities tried to outplant it in other locations in order to preserve it.
  • The Hawaiian name for it is ahinahina – ‘very grey’.

When attempts were made to cultivate this plant, it began branching and flowering almost every year.

12

Lobelia gaudichaudii

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Plantae Asterales Campanulaceae Lobelia Lobelia gaudichaudii
Lobelia gaudichaudii
Source: Wikimedia

This Hawaiian plant grows in Southern Ko’olau mountains on the Oahu island.

  • This plant has a woody stem with a rosette of long leaves on its top.
  • The flowers grow on a long stem, usually crimson.
  • The petals are short, and there are usually many small flowers around one single stem.
  • These flowers require wet conditions to flourish.

Interesting facts:

  • Scientists believe that Lobelia species arrived in Hawaii around 13 million years ago.
  • The flowers have a peculiar, curved shape in order to accommodate bills of the native birds that feed on their nectar.
  • Lobelia flowers can grow up to 75 cm long.
  • According to the specialists’ data, there are around 1000 Lobelia gaudichaudii plants left in the whole archipelago.
  • A subspecies, Lobelia gaudichaudii ssp. koolauensis is almost extinct – there are less than 252 plants in total.

13

Leptecophylla tameiameiae

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Plantae Ericales Ericaceae Leptecophylla Leptecophylla tameiameiae
Leptecophylla tameiameia
Source: Wikimedia

The next Hawaiian flower plant is a shrub that usually grows both in open spaces and forests and can be found both at low and middle heights.

  • The shrub has multiple branches with small, clustering leaves.
  • The flowers and fruit can be seen on the top of the branches.
  • Flowers are either white or pink.
  • The fruits form clusters and can be white, pink or red.

Interesting facts:

  • It is one of the few endemic Hawaiian plants that are not considered endangered.
  • The leaves of this plant are used in a concoction used to prevent congestion.
  • The fruit of this Leptecophylla shrub is often used in lei making.
  • Traditionally, the wood of leptecophylla was used in sacred ceremonies conducted in the new chief’s honor or in burning the corpses of criminals.
  • The wood of leptecophylla shrubs, or puki`awe, was also used for making Kua kuku – a special anvil for beating tapa.

14

Anoectochilus sandvicensis

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Plantae Asparagales Orchidaceae Anoectochilus Anoectochilus sandvicensis

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This Hawaiian flower is one of the three species of Hawaiian endemic orchids. It is called a jewel orchid.

  • Like many orchid species, this is a creeping plant. The orchid’s stem can form roots at its nodes.
  • The leaves are dark green and can be seen mainly on the upper portion of the stem.
  • The flower itself is bright yellow. The flowers face downward and form clusters on a single stem.
  • This orchid can either grow separately in deep shade, in wet conditions or around the lower part of the tree trunks.

Interesting facts:

  • This orchid is the most striking among the three endemic Hawaiian orchids – the other two are far less conspicuous.
  • Most orchids in Hawaii except the three already mentioned are introduced, not native species.
  • The jewel orchid became vulnerable with the introduction of honeybees that could pollinate the orchid species brought from other countries, thus increasing the competition.
  • This beautiful Hawaiian flower orchid can be easily destroyed by pigs or slugs.
  • This plant has no defined blooming season – it may flower sporadically through the year.

15

Vaccinium reticulatum

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Plantae Ericales Ericaceae Vaccinium Vaccinium reticulatum

Leptecophylla tameiameia

The locals call this shrub `Ohelo. This small Hawaiian shrub can go up to 4 feet in height. It has medium-sized, leathery leaves, oval.

  • The leaves can be both smooth and hairy. The leaves` edges can vary as well: smooth, toothed and even rolled under the leaves.
  • Each flower of the vaccinium plant grows separately from the leaf base.
  • Flowers may vary in color from red to yellow with red stripes.
  • They are tubular, about 1 and 4 inches long. The fruit is small, red, purple or yellow, and grow in clusters.

Interesting facts:

  • This plant is a local relative of cranberry.
  • The branches of this shrub grow from underground stems called rhizomes.
  • `Ohelo has such variable leaves because there can be leaves of different ages on the same shrub: for instance, the upper part would hold adult leaves, and the lower part – juvenile leaves.
  • This plant can self-fertilize.
  • The berries of V.reticulatum were found to contain phytochemicals with high antioxidant capacities.

When one dives into the world of Hawaiian plants, one can not only see the unique landscape of these beautiful islands – but also the culture of peoples used to spend centuries with them.

It is imperative to preserve those beautiful life forms, for they are connected both with the fragile local ecosystems and local traditions.

Cite this article as: "Top 15 Best Hawaiian Flowers," in Bio Explorer by Jack Kirsten, September 18, 2019, https://www.bioexplorer.net/best-hawaiian-flowers.html/.

Key References

  • “Metrosideros polymorpha Gaud -“. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “List of plants in the family Myrtaceae | Britannica.com”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Hawaiian honeycreeper | bird | Britannica.com”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Metrosiderous polymorpha Guad. Ohia lehua. | Treesearch”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Sesbania tomentosa (‘Ohai)”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Argemone glauca – Pua Kala, Smooth Pricklypoppy, Hawaiian Poppy, Hawaiian Prickly Poppy, Beach Poppy, Puakala, Kala, Naule, Pokalakala – Hawaiian Plants and Tropical Flowers”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Bishop Museum – Ethnobotany Database”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Abutilon eremitopetalum (Hidden-petaled ‘Ilima)”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Geranium arboreum | Revolvy”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Native Hawaiian Forest Birds – Haleakalā National Park (U.S. National Park Service)”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Hibiscus brackenridgei (Ma’o hau hele)”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Mao hau hele”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Bidens cosmoides (Po’ola nui)”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Bidens cosmoides | Flickr”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Native Plants Hawaii – Viewing Plant : Brighamia insignis”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “The daredevil, the vanishing green sphinx and the plant that found a friend | Under The Banyan”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Sophora chrysophylla – Mamane, Mamani – Hawaiian Plants and Tropical Flowers”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Native Plants Hawaii – Viewing Plant : Broussaisia arguta”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Theridion grallator | Nananana makakiÊ»i or Happy-face spider… | Flickr”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Hawaiian silversword alliance, UH Botany”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Lobelia gaudichaudii in the KoÊ»olau Mountains | Hawaiian Forest”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Native Plants Hawaii – Viewing Plant : Leptecophylla tameiameiae”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Bishop Museum – Ethnobotany Database”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Anoectochilus sandvicensis (Hawaiian Jeweled Orchid, Honohono): Go Orchids”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “The Curious Case of Hawaii’s Endemic Orchids” – In Defense of Plants. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Vaccinium reticulatum (‘Ohelo)”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Phytochemicals in fruits of Hawaiian wild cranberry relatives.” – Semantic Scholar. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “File:Argemone glauca var. glauca (5247421410).jpg – Wikimedia Commons”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “File:Abutilon eremitopetalum (4821291419).jpg – Wikimedia Commons”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “File:Starr 030603-0002 Geranium arboreum.jpg – Wikimedia Commons”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “File:Starr 030222-0062 Sophora chrysophylla.jpg – Wikimedia Commons”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “File:Lobelia cardinalis-02.jpg – Wikimedia Commons”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.
  • “Forest & Kim Starr (Starr Environmental)”. Accessed September 18, 2019. Link.

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