It is estimated that 90 percent of Hawaii's native flora is grown nowhere else in the world. The first Polynesians to find the island chain were greeted with a riot of vegetation that they soon utilized in their everyday life for food, medicine and religious purposes. It is difficult to consider Hawaii without also thinking about the scents and the beauty of her flowers.
Ma'o hau hele (mah-oh hah-oo hay-lay)
Hawaii's official state flower, ma'o hau hele, is a yellow hibiscus. Scientifically known as Hibiscus brackenridgei, the shrub grows to 8 feet in height and blooms in spring and early summer, although there is a sub-species that blooms in the winter on the island of O'ahu. In Hawaii, Ma'o hau hele can be found in resort landscaping and in residential gardens as borders.
Yellow Ilima (ee-lee-ma)
The official flower of the island of O'ahu, the yellow ilima (Sida fallax), was used for medicinal purposes by ancient Hawaiians. The yellow ilima is a member of the hibiscus family and the only species in the Sida genus that is native to Hawaii, according to native plant specialists at the University of Hawaii. With small, golden flowers, yellow ilima thrives on the drier, leeward sides of the islands. On the Hawaiian islands, you will frequently find ilima growing as ground cover in sandy soils.
The bright red ohia flower is the official flower of the island of Hawaii, or the Big Island, as it is commonly known. Fluffy ohia flowers, which resemble those of the bottle brush tree, bloom on the ohia tree (Metrosideros collina polymorpha) year-round. In ancient Hawaii, ohia flowers, which also bloom in yellow, were mixed with other ingredients and given to women in labor to help with pain, and to children with thrush. Today, ohia, a member of the myrtle family, is the most common tree in the state, dominating natural forests.
- Photo Credit Hawaii Flora 05 image by John R. Amelia from Fotolia.com Yellow Hibiscus image by Mike & Valerie Miller from Fotolia.com
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