Plant Life in Honolulu Hawaii


Honolulu plant life is a mix of native Hawaiian plants and imported vegetation, enhancing the eclectic nature of the city. The island climate of Oahu, the island where the city of Honolulu is situated, helps create an environment where vegetation thrives. The native Hawaii'an plants are now threatened, both from human activity and by imported plants, often coming as garden plants but spreading uncontrollably in the absence of natural enemies.

Native Hawaii'an Plants

  • The Hawaii'an islands have been slowly colonized by plants and animals. The islands themselves are young in geological terms--less than 10 million years. And the distance from other land has meant that any animal or plant found here originally came with the winds, waves or with some other animal (bird or insect, or subsequently humans).

    The tropical yet variable climate has meant that plants and animals found many different niches to adapt to. While the climate is typical for the tropics, and there are two basic seasons, each island has a windward and leeward side, which vary in rainfall. And since the islands are volcanic, the mountains are relatively high and the rainfall has formed isolated valleys through erosion, creating a multitude of micro-climates. This is benevolent to vegetation, which can be found everywhere--there are even flowers which grow on rocks.

Threatened Hawaii'an Plants

  • When the Polynesians, and later the Europeans, came to the islands this had a devastating impact on the island vegetation and variety. Forest clearance and cultivation of imported plants have killed off both wildlife and plants. When humans came, there were approximately 50,000 species of plants and animals in Hawaii. Today, only 2,600 remain. As many as 273 plants are listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Half of the world's endangered plant species are found in Hawaii. More than 50 percent of the 2,200 native tree species have either disappeared or are endangered.

Nature Reserves

  • Hawaii has a number of reserves under the management of the National Park Service, and although these include the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, this is not a nature reserve. The state of Hawaii has created several reserves to preserve threatened wildlife and vegetation on the island of Oahu.

Imported Vegetation

  • Over the almost two centuries that Hawaii has been open to visitors from Asia, America and Europe, these have brought a large number of plants. These were imported as garden plants and for cultivation. Some of them have spread uncontrollably and are now considered naturalized in Hawaii. These include the fig tree and the eucalyptus tree.

Famous Trees and Plants

  • In the traditional Hawaii'an society, the different species of trees and plants were used for tools, canoes, to weave baskets and create hats and clothes. Today, the most famous of these trees is the koa, which is protected by the state. A limited number of trees are harvested every year and used for souvenirs.

    Flowers are however the most famous part of the native vegetation. Today, the imported flowers compete successfully with the native flowers even in the most Hawaii'an symbol, the lei or flower necklace. Flowers are also used for perfume. One of the Hawaii'an flowers, the hibiscus, can also be used to carry a message. If a young woman wears a hibiscus flower on her left ear, she is married or in a relationship. But if she wears it over her right ear, she is single.

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  • Photo Credit Flowers of Hawaii image by illiad5 from hawaii loves you image by red vette from Hawaii Flora 05 image by John R. Amelia from hawaii landscape image by Janina Sund from eucalyptus image by lye from Hibiscus image by Cédric FROEHLICH from
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