The Flowers of Hawaii - Your Maui Flower Identification Guide (2024)

Hawaii is nothing but a full-bodied, sensual experience. Its magnificent sights – stunning beaches, verdant rainforests, soaring waterfalls – are often praised, but it also delights the nose, ears, taste buds and sense of touch. From the heavenly cuisine to the relaxed music to the velvety, sultry air - it's no wonder that the sensual Aloha State is synonymous with the Garden of Eden.

The flowers of Hawaii add to this bliss. Whether blooming outside your Airbnb window, thriving in the wilds of Hana, or flourishing on a boutique farm, Hawaii's flowers—wild, diverse, sometimes radical—contribute to the islands' magic. Here are 9 of the most iconic blooms you may encounter on our Maui bike tours: some endemic, some introduced – and all captivating in their beauty.

Anthurium

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Smooth, waxy, shaded in shades of red and pink, and shaped like a heart, there's something downright sexy about anthuriums. Native to America, the houseplant and garden gem thrives in the tropics and first came to Hawaii in 1889, when Hawaii Secretary of the Treasury Samuel Mills Damon returned from England with a stem and planted it in his garden. Beginning in 1936, hobbyists on the islands began cultivating the flower, resulting in developments such as the Ozaki (a red anthurium grown in Hilo) and the Starlight—the first anthurium to be patented.

Paradiesvogel

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Few flowers inspire as much joy and awe as a bird of paradise. With its bright orange petals - and hints of iris - the flower's exoticism has become a symbol of the islands, thanks in part to Georgia O'Keefe, whose stay in Hawaii in the 1940s inspired her famous work "White Bird of Paradise." . Known as the “crane flower” in South Africa – where it originally comes from – the striking flower has similarities to the banana.

Hawaiian gardenia

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Native to the Aloha State, the Hawaiian gardenia – or na’u – is one of the islands’ most fragrant flowers; it is found in clusters, and its scent is practically its own presence. Their alabaster hue only serves to amaze and haunt them. The flower, which belongs to the coffee family, was once widespread on all the Hawaiian islands; Today it is an endangered species with only a few plants left in the wild. In other words? You should feel blessed if you find one.

Quick

Possibly the most wonderful scent in Hawaii, the pikake went down in Hawaiian history as the favorite flower of the famous “Crown Princess” Ka’iulani – the heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaii before the fall of the Hawaiian monarchy. Pikake, which means “peaco*ck” in Hawaii, is also known as Indian and Arabian jasmine and is a member of the olive family. It has such a wonderful aroma that it is one of the best-selling perfumes in Hawaii. With four different types of flowers common across the islands, it appears in leis and gardens, enveloping many romantic nights with its irresistible scent.

Blue ginger

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While awapuhi grows in abundance throughout the islands - the pink and red crowns are a large part of the resort grounds - blue ginger, or Dichorisandra thyrsiflora (which can be seen at the Maui Tropical Plantation among many other beautiful plants) , is a rarer encounter. Native to Brazil and bearing similarities to spiderwort, the color of the plant is somewhere between sapphire and violet, making it striking, if not striking, in even the most colorful gardens.

Hawaiian hibiscus

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Hawaii is home to more than birds and plants found nowhere else on earth: it's also home to seven species of hibiscus that are endemic to the islands—but what most visitors and locals see are Chinese hibiscus and their hybrids. Nonetheless, the colorful, vibrant flower, in colors ranging from bright pink to white, has become a symbol of Hawaii, with the yellow hibiscus, also known as pua alo alo, considered the state's flower. Hibiscus is a fixture on the islands and blooms daily, but it sheds its petals almost as quickly - most hibiscus rarely stay longer than sunset.

Plumeria

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Garden staple, resort landscaping base, beach ornamental, plumeria trees are as ubiquitous as palm trees in Hawaii, dazzling the eyes with their range of colors (from scarlet to white with a butter yellow center) and tantalizing noses with their color sweet, perfumed scent. Brought to the islands in 1860 by a German botanist, they are the flower you tuck behind your ear on the way to dinner and, if you're kama'aina, the flower you reach for when it's time , to make a flower wreath for a birthday, a baby's first birthday or graduation. Stroll along the waterfront boardwalk—like Maui's Wailea Boardwalk—and chances are you'll find a bouquet of plumeria flowers drying in the sun on the rocks by the water. Consider it a misguided interpretation of a tradition that began in World War II, when sailors leaving Oahu threw their plumeria lei into the Pacific (a lei that floated to shore guaranteed their return; a lei that swam back to the ship swam, hinted that they would not return). If you receive a plumeria lei during your visit to Hawaii, make sure it is not simply thrown in the trash: local ritual states that the lei should be returned to the earth, hung on a tree, buried, or burned.

‚Uki ‚Uki (Hawaiianische Lilie)

The 'uki 'uki or Hawaiian lily is not a simple ground cover. Dianella sandwicensis, which bears white flowers and bluish-purple fruit year-round, is often strung into lei and used as a dye for kapa cloths. (Native Hawaiians also used them for rope and straw houses.) Native to the islands, 'uki 'uki adapts well to a variety of environments, meaning it thrives just as well in dry areas as it does in lush rainforests.

Naupaka

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With its dark green leaves and irresistible, half-broken white flowers, Naupaka can be seen from sea to sky. Or, to put it less poetically, it thrives both on the beach and in the mountains. Native to Hawaii, the naupaka, which exudes a distinctively pleasant scent (especially given its small size), like many Hawaiian flowers has a myth behind it: According to legend, a princess named Naupaka fell madly in love with a plebeian whom she was not allowed to marry. When a priest advising Hawaii's Romeo and Juliet said he could do nothing for them, a desperate Naupaka ripped the white flower from her hair and tore it in half. She gave half of the flower to her lover and insisted that he return to the beach; she, on the other hand, would stay in the mountains. Today, the “female” naupaka – which grows in the upper regions of the islands – smells sweeter and more intense than its robust “male” version on the beach. Whatever you may believe, you won't be able to question its ability to seduce - just like all of Hawaii.

The Flowers of Hawaii - Your Maui Flower Identification Guide (2024)

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