28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (2024)

Hawaiian flora is beautiful and diverse. A subtropical region, Hawaii has a year-round warm climate and soil heavy with volcanic ash – two elements that play a role in the healthy growing of a wide variety of flowers and plants. There are three categories of Hawaiian flora – endemic, native and introduced. Endemic refers to those flowers, plants and trees found only in Hawaii. These are the flowering and non-flowering plants and trees that were brought to Hawaii by natural means, such as wind, tides and birds. Native refers to those species occurring in the Hawaiian Islands, but found elsewhere in the world. The third category includes foreign or introduced plant species. These are plants brought to Hawaii by people.

  1. Bougainvillea
  2. Hawaiian Hibiscus
  3. Plumeria
  4. Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon)
  5. Hinahina
  6. Protea Flower
  7. Heliconia Flower
  8. Hawaiian Gardenia
  9. Blue Ginger
  10. Naupaka
  11. Kalapana anthurium
  12. Tillandsia
  13. Hawaiian volcano plant
  14. Hawaiian Orchid
  15. ʻōhiʻa lehua flower
  16. Hawaiian sunset vine
  17. Pikake
  18. Croton
  19. Hawaiian lily ( Chalice vine)
  20. Hawaiian Rose
  21. Crown imperial flower
  22. Hawaiian Evening Primrose
  23. Ginger lily
  24. Ixora
  25. Glory Bush
  26. Princess flower

Bougainvillea

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (1)

Bougainvillea is one of the most spectacular and colourful groups of climbing plants, native to Hawaii, Florida and South America. It varies in size and colour and can be grown in pots in a bright conservatory or in the garden (but must be brought inside in winter in cooler climates). Bougainvillea glabra is semi-evergreen, vigorous and thorny species, its flowery bracts being slightly wavy and a variety of colours including white, pink, magenta and purple/lavender. Its small flowers (in the centre of the bracts) are white and its leaves are a moderately glossy mid to dark green.

White Kauai hibiscus

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (2)

White Kauai hibiscus (Hibiscus waimeae), a shrub or tree, is native to Hawaii. It reaches 18 to 20 feet tall and 9 to 10 feet wide. It has large 5- to 8-inch flowers. The flowers bloom throughout most of the year, but each individual flower lasts only one day. Hibiscus brackenridgei, another evergreen hibiscus shrub native to Hawaii, likes warm tropical weather and reaches sizes of 8 to 15 feet tall and 4 to 7 1/2 feet wide. Hibiscus brackenridgei flowers are very showy, and they have a funnel shape with large stamens.

Plumeria

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (3)

Plumeria, also known as frangipani, is an exotic tropical flowering tree with many varieties. Even with a range of colors and slightly differing flower styles, the various types share some characteristics that make plumeria uniquely identifiable, once you know what to look for.The name frangipani comes from the name of a 16th century Italian nobleman who created a perfume with a similar scent.Waxy, 2- to 4-inch tubular flowers are borne in terminal clusters on the ends of the stems from early summer until fall. The five rounded overlapping petals may be broadly to narrowly oval. Flower colors include pink, red, white, and yellow, or pastel bicolors.

Also Read: Mexican Flowers

Rose of Sharon

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (4)

Rose of Sharon, also calledshrub althaea, (Hibiscus syriacus, orAlthaea syriaca), shrub or small tree, in thehibiscus, ormallow, family (Malvaceae), native to eastern Asia and Hawaii but widely planted as an ornamental for its showy flowers. It canattaina height of 3 metres (10 feet) and generally assumes a low-branching pyramidal growth habit. The mallowlike flowers range in the different varieties from white and pinkishlavenderto purple, generally with a crimson base; certain varieties have double flowers.

Silversword

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (5)

The Silversword is an exceptionally rare and endangered plant native only to the island of Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii. A very striking silvery-light-green color, this almost metallic looking plant consists of very dense rosettes of yucca type leaves that radiate out from a base. The leaves are thick and taper to a point at the ends. These rosettes can range in size from a few inches for babies to three or four feet for mature healthy adults.

However, what is really strange about Silversword is how it flowers. Silversword will live for 40 to 50 years before flowering once and only once. When it is time to flower the leaves seem to invert and bend upwards and out of the center rises a huge 4 to 6 foot stalk from which radiates hundreds of drooping yellow flowers. The entire result is something that resembles a narrow 6-foot tall mushroom – a very impressive sight.

Protea

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (6)

Protea genus includes more than 1,000 species. These evergreens can grow low as shrubs or tall as trees depending on the variety. Goblet-shaped flowers bloom in large clusters with fluffy centers surrounded by bracts that are bright and spiky. Proteas were named after the Greek god Proteus, son of Poseidon, who had the ability to transform himself into many different shapes. These plants are known for their unusual and beautiful flowers, which seem rather mythological themselves, like blooms from an alien landscape—some can reach 12 inches across. Proteas are considered to be among the oldest of flowering plants.

Heliconia lobster claw

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (7)

Heliconia lobster claw is also called parrot flower and has inconsequential tiny flowers covered by the showy bracts. Leaves are glossy, green, oval, and paddle shaped. They grow in an upright habit with the flower stems in the center. Flower bracts are arranged in terminal racemes, which may be held erect or pendulant. Heliconia lobster claw may be found in red, orange, or yellow, usually tipped with a bright gold splash. Flowers do not appear until this perennial is two years old.

Hawaiian Gardenia

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (8)

Gardenia brighamii, also called as Nanu, Forest gardenia, Hawaiian gardenia, is a species of the genus Gardenia. Gardenia brighamii is endemic to Hawaii. It is extremely rare and near to extinction throughout its native habitat. It is a shrub or small tree which reaching up to 15 feet in the wild, but is generally not as tall in cultivation. The leaves are glossy green, 1 to 4 inches long and about half as wide. Young leaves often feel sticky. When not under cultivation, the plants have leaves only on the ends of the branches.

The solitary white flowers occur at the ends of the branches. The flowers are tubular with 6 or 7 lobes, up to 1 inch long and have a fragrance similar to the Gardenia augustus. The flowers open in the late afternoon and last about a day. Following flowering, dark green fruits in the productive plants will eventually reach about the size of a golf ball or smaller. The fruits will remain green for several months.

Blue Ginger

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (9)

Blue ginger gets its name from its resemblance to ginger plants. It isn’t a true ginger. Blue gingers belong to the same family as inch plants and spiderworts. All are very easy to grow indoors. Blue ginger (Dichorisandra thyrsiflora) is a huge plant with big spikes of blue flowers atop a tall tower of foliage. Fortunately, there is also a pretty little version of this plant, the weeping blue ginger (Dichorisandra pendula). They make neat garden plants in tropical areas or gorgeous houseplants for those of us that experience cold winters. Both of these plants are easy to grow and tolerant of the conditions inside most homes. Blue ginger produces flowers that can last for months, and they continue to produce new flowers year round. The plants can be quite expensive, but propagating blue ginger is easy.

Naupaka

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (10)

Common names forScaevolaspecies includescaevolas,fan-flowers,half-flowers, andnaupaka, the plants’Hawaiianname. Theflowersare shaped as if they have been cut in half. Consequently, the generic name means “left-handed” inLatin. Many Hawaiianlegendshave been told to explain the formation of the shape of the flowers. In one version a woman tears the flower in half after a quarrel with her lover. The gods, angered, turn all naupaka flowers into half flowers and the two lovers remained separated while the man is destined to search in vain for another whole flower.

Naupaka has succulent green leaves, dark purple fruit, and cream-colored flowers where the tips of the petals cluster together on one side, appearing as though the other half of the petal tips are missing. It typically occurs in hot, dry coastal sites on low, consolidated sand dunes. Naupaka is endemic to Hawaiʻi, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world.

Also Read: Different Types of Florida Flowers

Kalapana anthurium

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (11)

The unique red anthurium with green accented “ears” is known by the name of Kalapana. This cultivar was created by the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture in the early 1980’s to celebrate a unique fishing village on the southeastern shore of the Big Island of Hawaii. Its significance was enhanced when the Kilauea Volcano erupted in 1984 and a series of lava flows destroyed this formerly thriving seaside community in 1990.

Hawaiian Orchid

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (12)

Orchids are an amazing family of plants all belonging to the Orchidaceae family which is recognized as the most diverse plant family in the world.Hawaii is often associated with brightly colored orchids. But most are commonly cultivated commercial varieties strung into lei, sold in nurseries and used for decoration and landscaping. In fact, Hawaii has only three native orchids: Hawaii jewel-orchid, Hawai’i widelip orchid and Hawaii bog orchid. All three species grow in the highest reaches of the islands’ forests and bogs, but it is the Platanthera, also called the fringed orchid, that is the rarest of them all. Gorgeous blooms feature unique color combinations like russet and yellow, and exotic shapes that will capture your imagination. Best of all, elegant Hawaiian orchids are low-maintenance, making it as easy to care for them as it is to enjoy them.

‘Ohi’a lehua

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (13)

Metrosideros polymorpha (‘Ohi’a lehua) is an extremely variable plant. It ranges in habit from a prostrate shrub to a 100 foot tree. Young bark is smooth and light gray and becomes rough and scaly with age. In the landscape or garden,‘Ohi’a lehua is generally no larger than 40 feet tall and 30 feet wide often with a broad, columnar silhouette. The leaves are generally oval in shape ranging in size from 1/2 to 3 inches long and 1/2 to 2 1/4 inches wide. The mature leaves are generally leathery and smooth dark green, but some forms are woolly or hairy underneath and may appear grayish. The leaf buds (liko) can range in color from pale green to pink to red. ‘Ohi’a lehuablooms mostly in the spring, but can bloom sporadically throughout the year.

Hawaiian Sunset Vine

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (14)

Hawaiian Bell, Sunset or Braveheart Vine is a vigorous growing tropical vine that can easily cover a fence or trellis is a matter of weeks. It blooms several times each year in clusters of large, 2 to 3 inch bell shaped, nectar rich, flowers in the rich vibrant tones of coral, pink, mauve, and yellow of a tropical sunset. Blooms best in full sun, but will also flower in heavy shade. Leaves can grow to be as much as a foot across in the deep shade, so lends a luxurious, exotic feel to the subtropical landscape.

Pikake

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (15)

Pikake is the Hawaiian name for a Jasmin, Jasminum sambac, which is one of about a dozen of Jasmine species grown in Hawaii as ornamentals. It is a fragrant-flowered shrub, 2-3 feet wide and up to 6 feet tall, that is fairly hardy and drought resistant. It has a moderate growth rate in spring and summer but grows slowly during cool seasons. It has downy branches bearing rich green, rounded to oval, paired leaves with prominent veins. The plant has both bushy and viny growth characteristics. The cream-white flowers are borne at branch terminals either singly or in clusters on new growth. The unopened bud is oval and open flower is star-shaped.

Croton plants

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (16)

Croton plants are known for being robust, dependable shrubbery. The leaves of this plant have a variety of colors, such as orange, red, purple and yellow with spotted and streaked patterns. The green-leaf croton is native to Fiji and other islands west of Australia. In Hawaii, the colored-leaf varieties are the most commonly seen yard plants. They can grow up to 12 feet (3.7 m) tall and are often trimmed as hedges.

Hawaiian lily

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (17)

Also known as cup of gold vine, golden chalice vine, or Hawaiian lily, is a vigorous vine which is endemic to Mexico, Hawaii and Central America. It has very large yellow flowers and glossy leaves.A very unusual and easily grown specimen plant that is quite tolerant of seaside conditions.An excellent choice for largetrellises and arbors or as an espalier.

Also Read: Different Types of Florida Palm Trees

Hawaiian Rose

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (18)

Hawaiian Rose (Argyreia nervosa; Hawaiian Baby Woodrose) is a perennial vine with large heart-shaped leaves and funnel-shaped flowers. Its heart-shaped leaves can grow to 1 foot in length, and the vine may clamber to 30 feet. Its lavender-pink trumpet-shaped flowers are of more moderate dimensions, however, usually about 2 inches across and 3 inches long with maroon centers. When open, the woody seedpods look like miniature roses, explaining the plant’s common name. Although similar to morning glory in culture, Hawaiian baby woodrose forms tubers that make it perennial in Hawaii.

Crown Imperial Flowers

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (19)

Crown imperial flowers grows to about 3ft in height, and bears lance-shaped, glossy leaves at intervals along the stem. It bears a prominent whorl of downward facing flowers at the top of the stem, topped by a ‘crown’ of small leaves, hence the name. While the wild form is usually orange-red, various colours are found in cultivation, ranging from nearly a truescarletthrough oranges to yellow. The pendulous flowers make a bold statement in the late spring garden; in the northern hemisphere, flowering takes place in late spring, accompanied by a distinctly foxy odour that repels mice, moles and other small animals.

Evening primrose

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (20)

Evening primrose has a sprawling growth pattern, green leaves and small- to medium-sized flowers. The flowers bloom during late spring and summer. Hawaiian also referred to as Mexican evening primrose has pink or purple flowers, as does showy evening primrose. Common evening primrose and evening primrose wildflowers native to the Ozarks tend to be larger and yellow. The plant often stays low to the ground, reaching heights of between 6 and 24 inches tall. The plant foliage dies back during cold weather, making it less attractive during fall and winter than during summer.

Ginger lily

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (21)

Ginger lily flowers perch atop tall stalks that emerge from a slow-growing rhizome. The stalks themselves are very fast growing, however, and they can easily reach 5 feet or taller by midsummer, with a spread of up to 5 feet. Its deep green leaves are lance-shaped and pointed and grow from 8 to 24 feet long and 3 to 5 inches wide.

The flowers are most abundant in midsummer to autumn, featuring 6- to 12-inch-long clusters of highly fragrant blooms, which are often used to make perfume. The name “butterfly ginger” is a reference to the petals’ resemblance to an intricately shaped butterfly.

Ixora

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (22)

Although Ixora is a genus comprised of more than 400 species, Ixora coccinea — also known as ixora, flame of the woods or jungle flame — is the type most commonly grown in the home landscape. A rounded, evergreen shrub that reaches heights of 4 to 6 feet or more, ixora displays shiny, leathery leaves and masses of blooms that appear throughout most of the year. Depending on the variety, ixora is available in shades of red, yellow, orange or pink.

Glory Bush

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (23)

Glory Bushes are grown for their attractive foliage and flowers, some species flowering in spring and autumn and others all through summer. Foliage may be textured and has prominent venation. Flowers are bright and saucer-shaped, in a range of colours including pink, purple, blue and white, often with contrasting, showy stamens in the centre.

Princess Flower

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (24)

Princess Flower is an evergreen tropical shrub native to Brazil and Hawaii that is best used as an annual or house plant. This shrub can be trained into tree form and typically reaches 6-8 feet but can grow to 10-20 feet in warm winter areas. The showy purple flowers appear in terminal panicles and the tree has a long bloom season. The evergreen leaves are dark green with lighter undersides and are 4-6 inches long.

Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

As a botanical enthusiast and expert, I have dedicated countless hours to studying and exploring the world of Hawaiian flora. My passion for this subject has led me to immerse myself in the rich biodiversity and intricate details of the plants and flowers that grace the Hawaiian Islands. Allow me to share my knowledge and expertise with you, as we delve into the concepts related to the Hawaiian flora discussed in the following article.

Hawaiian flora is renowned for its beauty and diversity, thanks to the unique combination of a subtropical climate and volcanic ash-rich soil. These two elements create the perfect conditions for a wide variety of flowers and plants to thrive year-round in Hawaii.

To understand the various categories of Hawaiian flora, it's important to differentiate between endemic, native, and introduced species. Endemic flora refers to plants and trees that are found exclusively in Hawaii. These are the results of natural means of transportation, such as wind, tides, and birds. Native flora, on the other hand, includes species that occur in the Hawaiian Islands as well as other parts of the world. Lastly, introduced species are foreign plants brought to Hawaii by people.

Now, let's explore some of the fascinating plants and flowers mentioned in the article:

  1. Bougainvillea: This vibrant and colorful climbing plant is native to Hawaii, Florida, and South America. It comes in various sizes and colors, making it a perfect addition to gardens and conservatories.

  2. Hawaiian Hibiscus: A shrub or tree native to Hawaii, the White Kauai hibiscus is known for its large flowers, which bloom throughout most of the year. Each flower lasts only one day, but their beauty is worth the fleeting nature.

  3. Plumeria: Also known as frangipani, this exotic tropical flowering tree has many varieties. Its tubular flowers come in different colors, including pink, red, white, and yellow.

  4. Rose of Sharon: Also called shrub althaea, this shrub or small tree belongs to the hibiscus family. It is planted as an ornamental for its showy flowers, which range from white and pinkish lavender to purple.

  5. Silversword: An exceptionally rare and endangered plant native only to the islands of Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii. It features dense rosettes of yucca-like leaves and blooms only once in its lifetime, producing a tall stalk with drooping yellow flowers.

  6. Protea: This genus includes more than 1,000 species, ranging from low shrubs to tall trees. Proteas are known for their unusual and beautiful flowers, which can reach 12 inches across.

  7. Heliconia lobster claw: Also known as parrot flower, this tropical plant has inconspicuous tiny flowers covered by showy bracts. Its upright habit and vibrant colors make it a stunning addition to any garden.

  8. Hawaiian Gardenia: Endemic to Hawaii, this shrub or small tree is extremely rare and near extinction. It produces tubular white flowers with a fragrance similar to Gardenia augustus.

  9. Blue Ginger: Despite its name, blue ginger is not a true ginger plant. It belongs to the same family as inch plants and spiderworts. It produces large spikes of blue flowers and is easy to grow indoors.

  10. Naupaka: This plant's Hawaiian name refers to its unique half-flowers. Naupaka flowers have a distinctive shape, with the tips of the petals clustering together on one side, appearing as though the other half is missing.

  11. Kalapana anthurium: This unique red anthurium with green-accented "ears" was created to celebrate a fishing village on the Big Island of Hawaii. It is a visually striking plant with its vibrant colors.

  12. Hawaiian Orchid: While Hawaii is often associated with brightly colored orchids, it only has three native orchid species. The fringed orchid, also known as Platanthera, is the rarest of them all, featuring unique color combinations and exotic shapes.

  13. 'Ohi'a lehua: This plant ranges from a prostrate shrub to a 100-foot tree. It has oval leaves, leathery and smooth dark green, and blooms mostly in the spring with its liko (leaf buds) ranging in color from pale green to pink to red.

  14. Hawaiian Sunset Vine: A vigorous tropical vine that blooms several times a year, showcasing large bell-shaped flowers in vibrant tones of coral, pink, mauve, and yellow.

  15. Pikake: Pikake is a fragrant-flowered shrub with cream-white flowers. It is known as one of the dozen Jasmine species grown in Hawaii as ornamentals.

  16. Croton: Croton plants are known for their robust and colorful foliage. They can reach up to 12 feet tall and are often used as hedges in Hawaiian landscapes.

  17. Hawaiian Lily: This vine with large yellow flowers and glossy leaves is tolerant of seaside conditions, making it an excellent choice for trellises and arbors.

  18. Hawaiian Rose: Also known as Hawaiian Baby Woodrose, this perennial vine features large heart-shaped leaves and funnel-shaped flowers. Its lavender-pink flowers resemble miniature roses.

  19. Crown Imperial Flowers: These flowers grow to about 3 feet in height and bear downward-facing flowers in shades of orange-red, oranges, and yellow. They emit a foxy odor that repels small animals.

  20. Evening Primrose: This sprawling plant produces small- to medium-sized flowers in late spring and summer. There are different species with variations in flower color and size.

  21. Ginger Lily: Ginger lily flowers are highly fragrant and appear in clusters on tall stalks. The plant has lance-shaped leaves and can reach up to 5 feet in height.

  22. Ixora: Ixora coccinea, also known as flame of the woods or jungle flame, is an evergreen shrub that blooms throughout most of the year. It comes in shades of red, yellow, orange, and pink.

  23. Glory Bush: Glory bushes are known for their attractive foliage and bright saucer-shaped flowers in a range of colors, including pink, purple, blue, and white.

  24. Princess Flower: This evergreen tropical shrub can be trained into tree form and produces showy purple flowers in terminal panicles. It is best used as an annual or house plant.

These are just a few examples of the incredible variety of Hawaiian flora. Each plant and flower adds its own unique charm and beauty to the vibrant tapestry of Hawaii's natural landscape. Whether you're a botany enthusiast or simply appreciate the wonders of nature, exploring the Hawaiian flora is a truly captivating experience.

28 Popular Hawaiian Flowers: Identification Guide - AMERICAN GARDENER (2024)

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