Hawaii’s Official State Flower and Official Island Emblems

Categorized as Kauai Vacation Information

Recently I was staying in my Princeville Vacation Rental when I noticed just outside my window was a beautiful yellow hibiscus flower. I then recalled that before there was even a Hawaii State Flower, the hibiscus was named the official flower of the Territory of Hawaii by the Legislature in 1923. They didn’t specify any particular one of the many varieties of the hibiscus, however, and this led to some confusion.

The various colors and types of hibiscus (including numerous introduced species) were said by some to represent the Hawaiian Islands’ unique ethnic mix.

Eventually many considered the native red hibiscus or the red Chinese species to be the Hawaii State Flower. Hawaii’s State Legislature clarified the issue in 1988 when it named the native yellow hibiscus to be the official state flower. The Hawaiian name for the yellow hibiscus is pua mao hau hele.

There are also official flowers or other emblems for each of the Hawaiian Islands.

The emblem of Hawaii Island (the Big Island) is pua lehua, the blossom of the native ohia lehua tree. Lehua flowers are tufts of scarlet red, yellow, orange, or sometimes even white.

Beautiful lei are woven from these flowers as well as from the unopened buds and the young silvery leaves. The plant is considered very sacred to the Hawaiian goddess Pele, who is known as the goddess of volcanoes.

Maui’s emblem is known as pua lokelani, which is the flower of the small pink damask rose. Pua lokelani is also known as the “rose of heaven.” This flower is a post-contact introduced species.

Molokai’s emblem is called pua kukui, the kukui tree flower. The kukui is Hawaii’s official state tree, and its small white flowers have five petals which grow in clusters. Kukui flowers are often strung into lei, and so are the polished nuts of the kukui tree.

Lānai’s emblem is kaunaoa, which is an orange vine commonly known as dodder and braided into beautiful lei.

The emblem of Oahu is pua ilima, which is the flower of ilima. Ilima is a thin and small hibiscus flower which is yellowish orange and measures about one inch across with five flower petals. Ilima is a very popular lei flower today in the Hawaiian Islands and the bright orange ilima petals are strung into beautiful lei – it may take up to 1,000 of the blossoms to make one lei!

The official emblem of the island of Kauai is the fruit of the mokihana plant, which has yellowish-green to purplish seed capsules that are strung together into lei, often with maile. These seed capsules are quite leathery and also have a strong anise-like smell which becomes even stronger when the seeds begin to dry out.

The emblem of the island of Niihau is the beautiful Niihau shell, also known as pupu Niihau. Different types of Niihau shells are kahelelani, momi, and laiki, and the colors can vary from white all the way to brown.

As I sit her now in my beautiful Maui Vacation Rental I can smell the aromatic pua lokelani flowers, and I also recall last week when I stayed at a wonderful Kauai Condo someone was kind enough to bestow upon me a lei of mokihana berries so wonderfully fragrant. All of these wonderful scents will always remind me of the beautiful Hawaiian Islands.