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Hawaiian Flowers Found on Maui

Hawaiian Flowers Found on Maui

01 Nov 2019

Hawaii is known for its beautiful, aromatic tropical flowers. Everywhere you look, there seems to be a splash of color and something in bloom. The island of Maui is no exception. Fragrant Plumeria, vibrant Hibiscus, and sweet scented Puakenikeni, are just a few of the flora you will find growing on the lush Valley Isle. Many of the flowers mentioned in this blog can be seen growing in botanical gardens around Maui - see a list of our favorite gardens to visit at the end of this post.


Hawaiian Flowers and Their Significance

So many flowers, so little time. Here are a few of the iconic tropical blooms you’ll find on Maui. While many of these flowers are not native to Hawaii, they have become ubiquitous in the landscape, used in lei making, and associated with Hawaii in art and popular culture. 

1. Plumeria

Hawaii’s most famous flower, the plumeria is known for its intoxicating scent and use in lei making. Its blooms come in a range of colors, from lily white to yellow, pale pink and deep red. Visitors and locals arriving to the islands are often welcomed with a plumeria flower lei at the airport. 

The Plumeria tree is native to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribean, but is grown widely in many tropical climates. Cultures around the world associate the Plumeria with their own lore, from fertility in the ancient Mayan culture, to ghosts and cemeteries in the Philippines. In Hawaii, the plumeria flower tucked behind the ear can be used by women to indicate their relationship status. A flower behind the right ear indicates ‘single’, while a flower behind the left signals ‘taken’. 

The plumeria flower’s scent, which is most potent at night, is used to attract moths for pollination. Alas, the sweet scent is a trick, because the flowers have no nectar and the moths end up pollinating ‘for free’ by accident.



2. Hibiscus

Known for their large, showy blooms, there are several species of Hibiscus that are native to Hawaii. The yellow native Hibiscus, (Hibiscus brackenridgei) or ‘ma'o hau hele’ in the Hawaiian language, is the Hawaii State flower. The native red Hibiscus used to be the state flower, but was changed in 1988. 

While it is beautiful to look at, the Hibiscus flower does not have a scent. The plant grows as a large bushy shrub and is popularly used in landscaping around homes and businesses. There are several hundred species of Hibiscus found around the world in tropical, subtropical, and some temperate climates. In addition to native species, Hawaii has numerous Chinese Hibiscus varieties. Many cultures make tea from the Hibiscus flower, which is high in vitamin C. You may recognize the deep red colored tea on the menu at Mexican restaurants, called ‘Agua De Jamaica’, or just ‘Jamaica’, where it’s served iced and sweetened with plenty of sugar.

3. Orchid

Hawaii has three native species of orchids. The rarest of which, Platanthera holochila, is still found in remote areas on Maui. While hiking on Maui, you can sometimes spot wild orchids growing. Orchids are popular in Hawaii, but the majority of the Orchids you’re likely to see on Maui are non-native species. Orchids are commonly used in leis, given as gifts, and grown in gardens. 

4. Ginger (Awapuhi)

A large tropical herb, you can find many types of ginger growing wild on Maui. Ginger is not native to Hawaii, but its variety of blooms are used in leis and cut flower arrangements. Intricately woven Leis made from the sweet smelling white ginger flowers are a favorite for special occasions.


Above, red ginger flower used in arrangements. Below white ginger flower used in Lei making.


5. Jasmine (Pikake)

Native to parts of Eurasia and Oceania, Jasmine is grown in Hawaii as an ornamental and for lei making. Hundreds of just opening Jasmine flower buds are strung together to make a delicate rope style lei, often worn by brides in Hawaii. The Jasmine flower is known for its delicate, perfume scent. A common species grown in Hawaii is the Jasminum sambac, which grows as a shrub, 2-3 ft. wide and up to 6 feet tall.




6. Tuberose

Native to Mexico, the Tuberose was brought to Hawaii for lei making. It’s small white perfectly shaped flowers have a luxurious, long-lasting scent. Tuberose lei are also popular with brides in Hawaii. The Tuberose scent has been distilled for use in perfumes since the 17th century when it was brought to Europe. 

7. Bird of Paradise

Native to South Africa, the Bird of Paradise plant produces stunning flowers on long stalks that resemble a colorful bird in flight. These plants are used in gardens and landscaping in Hawaii and can be spotted around Maui. The flowers do not have a scent, and are often used in cut flower arrangements.


Bird of Paradise


8. Anthurium

Native Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America and the Carribean, Anthuriums are another ornamental flowering plant that is widely grown in Hawaii. Their unique looking flowers range in color from deep red to white. The waxy flower leaves make Anthuriums an excellent flower for arrangements as they keep for long periods. You can spot Anthuriums growing around Maui in many gardens.  

9. Puakenikeni

Native to Northern Australia and South Pacific Islands, the Puakenikeni tree’s flowers have a rich, aromatic scent. The flowers range from white to orangey-gold in color and are often strung together into leis using wide ribbon. In Hawaiian, Puakenikeni means “10-cent flower” referring to the historical sale price of leis made from the flower. 


Botanical Gardens With Beautiful Flowers on Maui

Maui is home to many botanical gardens where you can see a vast selection of native and introduced flowering plants and trees. If you are a flower enthusiast or have a green thumb, you’ll appreciate a visit to the following gardens. Kids will love exploring here too.

Kula Botanical Gardens

One of Maui’s largest and most noteworthy is the Kula Botanical Gardens. Established in 1968, the 8-acre gardens are full of colorful and unique plants and flowers, rock formations, waterfalls, a koi pond, and aviary. Children will love their Jackson Chameleon exhibit. Adult admission is $10, children 6-12 are $3, and ages 5 and under can enter free. Hours are 9 am - 4pm daily. 

Maui Garden of Eden Arboretum

On the road to Hana, stop off at the Garden of Eden Arboretum for an easy walking tour through their beautiful gardens. Opened to the public in 1996, they have over 700 botanically labeled specimens, some of which were donated by George Harrison of the Beatles! Their property overlooks several waterfalls and beautiful ocean views. There is a concession stand, art gallery and gift shop on site. They are located about 26 miles from Kahului off Hana Highway. Adult admission is $15, children 5-16 are $5, and ages 5 and under enter free. 

Maui Tropical Plantation

This working farm in Wailuku offers a ride on the ‘Tropical Express’ that kids will enjoy. The 40-minute tram ride runs through the property and stops along the way for fruit tasting, plant and flower viewing, and a coconut husking demonstration. Tours run throughout the day and it’s recommended to book ahead of time on their website. Adult tickets are $24, and children ages 3-12 are $12. 



Looking for a place to stay on Maui with a lush, tropical feel? Our vacation rental properties have beautiful landscaping in a resort setting so you can have the full Hawaii experience. Contact us today for help finding your perfect place to stay on Maui’s west side.