To Pick or Not to Pick an Ohi‘a Lehua Blossom…

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Did you know that picking an ‘ohia lehua blossom will make it rain?

That’s what Hawaiians believed. But before I get into the story, you should know that the fiery red ohia lehua is the most common native tree in Hawaii, with the red lehua as the Big Island’s official flower. You’re likely to see this tree near Kilauea Volcano, as it’s usually the first life form to come from hardened lava.

Here’s the story of a love triangle with a bitter-sweet ending. There may be different versions, but this is the one that I was told as a kid. It’s one of my favorite Hawaiian love stories.

Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, was used to getting her way; so when she encountered a tall, handsome warrior named Ohia, Pele knew the burning desire she felt for him was no mistake. She wanted him, forever.

Unfortunately, Pele was a tad too late. Ohia had already fallen for the beautiful maiden, Lehua, to whom he vowed his eternal love. The boyfriend and girlfriend were inseparable; not even Madame Pele could change the feelings he had for Lehua.

But you never say “no” to Pele without suffering some type of consequence. And for poor Ohia – as nicely as he might have rejected her – that punishment came all too quickly. Pele instantly zapped him into an ugly, twisted tree, and when Lehua saw what had become of her hunk of a boyfriend, streams of tears poured down her face. She cried so loudly that the gods had heard her. To make her feel better, they transformed Lehua into a gorgeous red flower before then placing her on the ohia tree.

From that day on, the ohia tree has blossomed with the beautiful red lehua flowers, and it’s said that if you pick a flower, the skies will weep because the lovers have been separated.


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