You’ll quickly discover that not every Hawaiian island’s the same; each has a subculture of its own when it comes to foods, activities and landscapes. But it’s the special color and flower designated to each that really bring out their personalities. Both chosen elements are similar in hue and create a beautifully colored spectrum that shines brightly over the Aloha State.
(Clockwise from top left) Oahu ilima, Big Island ohia lehua, Lanai kaunaoa and Maui lokelani.
State of Hawaii Flower
The pua aloalo, or yellow hibiscus, became the state’s official flower in 1988. It grows abundantly on all islands throughout most of the year in a variety of forms and colors.
Oahu’s island flower can be easily overlooked because of how tiny it is. At about an inch in diameter, the lima lays low to the ground and ranges in color from yellow to orange or red to brown. You can find them at the Makapuu Lighthouse and near Kaena Point. In early Hawaii, the flower was used to cure general illnesses. Color: Yellow.
The red ohia lehua is not only native but also believed to be the sacred flower of volcano goddess Pele. Hawaiian legend says that picking this flower from its tree will cause it to rain. Color: Red.
Kauai’s flower is more of a light green berry called mokihana, found only on Mt. Waialeale. The trees often have light violet flowers as well. People string together the bead-like berries to create beautiful strands of lei that smell of the herb, anise. Color: Purple.
The pink lokelani, or pink cottage rose, is the only non-native plant to become an island flower. Introduced by the Spanish in the early 1800s, the flower has become known for its stunning beauty and subtle fragrance. It got so popular in Lahaina gardens that locals nicknamed it the Maui rose. Its Hawaiian name, lokelani, means heavenly rose. Color: Pink.
Even tinier than Oahu’s lima, the white pua kukui grow on the kukui tree (which is Hawaii’s state tree). It is also known as the candlenut blossom because early Hawaiians used kukui nuts as a source of light, similar to a candle. Color: Green.
The kaunaoa flower falls under the avocado family and can be spotted throughout the island’s lowland and dryland forests. Lei makers twist together the thin, light orange vines to make beautiful strands of lei. The flower is also mentioned in a mele inoa (name chant) commemorating Hawaiian chief Haalelea. Color: Orange.
The tiny white pupu shells scattered throughout this island’s rocky shoreline have become the island’s official lei making material. You’ll most likely see strands of pupu shell lei draped around hula dancers. There are three common kinds of pupu: momi (largest, 10 mm), laiki and kahelelani (smallest, 5 mm). Color: White.
The small white, tubular flowers of hinahina carry a distinctly sweet fragrance that make them a favored lei material. Color: Gray.