Tropical Flower Symbolism: Spiritual Meanings of Hawaiian Flowers
Tropical Flower Symbolism: Spiritual Meanings of Hawaiian Flowers
What do you picture when you think of Hawaii?
One of the images in your mind is probably a floral garland – known as leis – that people wear around their necks.
Flowers have huge importance, significance, and symbolism in Hawaiian culture. There are many ways that you can wear them, and they are associated with gifts, ceremonies, and celebrations including greetings, weddings, and accomplishments.
But what is the significance of these beautiful tropical flowers?
The Plumeria Flower
The plumeria flower is one of the most significant and powerful within Hawaiian culture.
It is either a bright pink or creamy yellow color and has a strong and sweet scent that is adored by many. In the past, only royalty was allowed to wear this flower due to its wonderful smell.
The plumeria flower represents birth and love; spring and new beginnings. It’s an extremely positive and hopeful symbol, so it’s no surprise that it’s extremely popular and adored.
In Hawaiian culture, the plumeria can be used to symbolize a woman’s romantic status when worn in the hair. If the flower is behind a woman’s left ear, she is in a relationship. If it is worn behind the right ear, she is willing to meet a romantic partner.
In Buddhist culture, the plumeria represents immortality. This is probably because the tree will bloom even if it is uprooted. The tree is considered sacred, and in Laos is planted outside every Buddhist temple.
You can find the plumeria flower all over the island. But it’s not a native flower. It was introduced to Hawaii by a German botanist in 1860. The plant thrived in the tropical climate and volcanic soil that is found in Hawaii.
The Hawaiian Hibiscus Flower
The hibiscus is Hawaii’s state flower.
This yellow flower is striking and beautiful. The vivid color signifies delicate beauty and joyfulness.
The Hawaiian hibiscus shrubs bloom almost every day, but the blossoms only last for a day. In the past, they were considered an endangered flower. Now, you can find the hibiscus growing nearly everywhere, with over thirty new species on the island.
The Bird of Paradise Flower
The bird of paradise flower is a striking orange and blue blossom that is in indigenous to Hawaii. It grows between the shiny leaves of the hibiscus bush and looks like a bird hiding among the bushes.
The bird of paradise flower symbolizes magnificence and joy. Like a bird who is free to soar in the skies, the flower also represents freedom and liberty.
The Red Tower Ginger Flower
The red tower ginger flower is difficult to miss.
It is a spiky bright red blossom which grows in a spiral shape. It looks similar to the outside of a pineapple, with its many pints. The red tower giant flower can grow to a large size, making it even more striking.
The flower can mean diversity, wealth and burning passion. It’s considered a good sign if you find a red tower ginger growing nearby.
The Orchid Flower
Hawaiian orchids are available in a huge range of dazzling colors. You’re most likely to spot them in the popular and well-known purple and white leis.
The orchid symbolized refinement, beauty, and luxury. In ancient Greece they also represented virility.
There are four varieties of orchid that are indigenous to Hawaii. You’ll find them growing in the rain forest.
The Ginger Flower
The flower of ginger is the small white buds that grow from the hive of the stems. You can find ginger flowers in red, pink, blue, white or yellow on Hawaii.
Ginger is believed to be a very useful plant and flower, used for everything from helping stomach pains to shampooing hair.
The Pikake Flower
This is the Hawaiian name for jasmine. It was named by Hawaii’s Princess Kaiulani whose favorite bird was a peacock. This is why pikake translates to ‘peacock’.
The pikake has a light, bright and gentle scent. They are often worn by brides, hula dancers, and honored guests.
The Ohia Lehua Flower
The ohia lehua flower is often related to Pele, the volcano goddess. The flower is known as the first flower to begin growing on lava flows after a volcanic eruption.
The legend says Pele was intrigued by a handsome man called Ohia. But Ohia was in love with another woman called Lehua. Heartbroken, Pele transformed Ohia into a twisted tree. Lehua begged for Ohia to be returned. Instead, Pele transformed Lehua into a blossom on the Ohia tree so the lovers could be together forever.
That’s why It’s believed that, if you pick a lehua flower off of the tree, it will rain. It is the tears of Ohia and Lehua as they are separated.
The Naupaka Flower
The naupaka flower is known for its unique shape; it looks like half of the flower is missing.
The Hawaiian legend claims that a princess named Naupaka fell in love with a common man that she was forbidden from marrying. An elderly wise woman told them of a distant temple where they should pray for guidance. They traveled for days but, when they arrived, the priest said that he could not help. A heartbroken Naupaka took the white flower from her hair and tore it in half. She gave one half of the flower to her lover and told him to return to the beach. She stayed in the mountain.
That’s why one type of naupaka plant grows in the mountains, and the other grows on the beach, while both look like only half a flower.
The Symbolism of Tropical Flowers
The tropical flowers associated with Hawaii are beautiful, vibrant and colorful. The leis and floral decorations associated with the island make the people seem welcoming and friendly.
But they are so much more than that. Each individual flower has a specific story, meaning or symbol behind it. By knowing more about the flowers, we are able to understand more about Hawaii’s culture, history, and people.
Discover and celebrate Hawaii’s tropical flower culture for yourself here.
Time to Get Festive: A Brief History of the Hawaiian Luau
Time to Get Festive: A Brief History of the Hawaiian Luau
Sometimes, you just gotta party. And there may be no better place to do that than at a Hawaiian luau. The luau is one of the most popular must-dos on the average Hawaii tourist’s wishlist. But the luau is more than just a tourist attraction. It’s also part of Hawaii’s rich indigenous cultural history, dating back hundreds of years. Recognizing the cultural history of a tradition is vital to respect it, so it pays to learn a little something before you attend a luau.
So let’s get festive and take a brief look at the history of the Hawaiian luau.
What Is a Luau?
In the modern sense, a luau is a pretty informal thing. It’s a broad term encompassing outdoor parties with lots of food and entertainment, and usually a large number of people. Combine a large backyard BBQ with a more traditional feast, and you’re somewhere close to the idea of the luau.
Hawaiians will celebrate a wide range of occasions with a luau, from birthdays and graduations to weddings. A luau is an extension of the close-knit, warm, and friendly islander lifestyle that forms the basis of Hawaiian culture.
As tourists come to Hawaii seeking to immerse themselves in the culture, the luau has expanded to an all-purpose party — no occasion needed.
All in the Past
Like the Spanish siesta, we think of the luau is an indelible part of Hawaiian culture — an idea we can’t fully translate into English terms. But it all had to start somewhere.
The exact origins of luau are almost certainly lost in the mists of time. Social rituals most often grow out of small conventions that snowball over time to become an established part of a country’s culture.
The luau is doubtless inextricable from Hawaii’s islander culture. Island peoples typically form close-knit communities with a strong sense of identity. At the same time, they have access to the rich bounty of the ocean and their tropical climate. Put the two together, and the origins of the luau seem obvious.
One of the earliest traceable forms of the luau is the aha’aina. Aha’aina is still the word many modern Hawaiians use to refer the luau, but it originally offered to the royal and religious version of the tradition.
Once upon a time, the aha’aina was a great gathering to celebrate momentous events like milestones in life or victory in battle. They were also a way for chiefs to display and celebrate their status.
These early ancestors of the luau had some key differences from its modern form. For starters, men and women weren’t allowed to eat together. Women were also forbidden from eating certain foods, such as bananas and pork. Not quite the inclusive spirit made famous by the modern luau!
Hawaii underwent a wide range of changes after early contact with European explorers. European weaponry and support led to the forging of a unified Kingdom of Hawaii under the Kamehameha dynasty.
As European ideas began to arrive in Hawaii, explorers also took stories about Hawaii back to their homelands. As with many of the countries “discovered” by European explorers, Hawaii became an exotic and exciting place to the people back home.
This interest in Hawaii as a destination would eventually give rise to modern tourists, who would have their own impact on the luau.
Breaking Down Barriers
King Kamehameha II, the second king of the Kingdom of Hawaii (and nothing to do with Son Goku at all) was a game-changer for the luau and beyond.
After King Kamehameha I died, one of his wives, Ka’ahumanu, used her influence with Kamehameha II to break down the kapu (a kind of religious and social set of taboos) in a quest to put Hawaii’s ancient religion behind them.
One of these taboos included the separation of men and women at mealtimes.
The result was a recognizably modern shift in Hawaii’s culture. With that, the modern version of the luau finally became a reality.
Kamehameha II’s luaus were the stuff of legend. The king loved a good party and the new, inclusive nature of the luau allowed them to build a new sense of unified cultural identity.
As knowledge of Hawaii spread throughout the world, many foreigners came to see the luau in action, and many more heard about it back home. With the world now opened up by explorers, Hawaii began to see their modern evolution: the tourist.
Like many cultural traditions around the world, luau has taken on a second life in the wake of pop-cultural interest. The end result is half traditional, half modern.
With the evolution of modern global culture, Hawaii has become a popular tourist stop. The islands have featured in or inspired films like Lilo & Stitch, Moana, and Jurassic Park, which has only nudged the popularity of the islands as a destination higher.
The romanticized laid-back islander culture appeals to mainlanders looking for a more relaxed way of life, and the natural beauty of the islands holds obvious appeal.
Traditional luau is now hard to separate from its tourist-inspired modern incarnation. Modern luaus tend less toward the traditional and more toward a giant, open-air party for everyone — but particularly to expectant tourists. And as old traditions give way more and more to modern society, the global take on the luau has displaced most of the original cultural significance.
But the luau still holds an important role in the lives of native Hawaiians, who honor the tradition by holding a luau to celebrate major life events and cement the bonds of family and community.
The Once and Future Luau
That’s about it for the history of the luau. Its modern incarnation still echoes its ancient roots, but it has evolved to become its own unique aspect of modern Hawaiian culture. And there’s no telling where it goes from here, as past and present continue to combine to build the future.
Looking to set the tone for a luau? Get your lei today.
7 Iconic Tropical Flowers That Will Make You Think of Hawaii
7 Iconic Hawaiian Plants That Will Put Hawaii on Your Mind
Different flowers capture the romance and tropical beauty of The Big Island. Here are 7 iconic Hawaiian plants that will put Hawaii on your mind.
What makes you think of the tropics? Are you dreaming of a trip to Hawaii, or reminiscing about your last visit?
The islands are paradise, and the vast species of flora that grow in the state makes it hard to choose only a few that remind you best of Hawaii.
Yet some native Hawaiian flowers are iconic and you won’t forget them no matter how long ago your trip was. Here are the 7 most memorable flowers from Hawaii.
1. Hibiscus – The Most Iconic Native Hawaiian Flowers
These giant flowers come in all different colors, so they’re perfect for any arrangement because you can match your other decor. The yellow version is the state flower of Hawaii, so you’ll think of the state and your tropical vacation whenever you see them.
With many breeds to choose from, these can be annual or perennial. They grow on trees or shrubs, and can be very tall if you take good care of them. You’ll recognize them by the large stamen and small number of graceful petals that adorn each blossom.
Some breeds get used to make a fragrant tea, which you can serve hot or cold.
Again with many types of breeds, these fragile flowers are called okika in Hawaiian.
These elegant blooms make great gifts, and they’re often sold with a thin stake to help the stems stay upright. Most blooms have one stamen, although the original flowers had two or even three.
The petals can be all different colors, and often times are speckled. These plants need lots of water, but you need to let them dry out before you water them again or they can develop root rot.
You can also add fertilizer or plant food specific to orchid growth.
While these Hawaiian flowers are widespread through other tropical regions like the Caribbean, they’ll bring back lots of memories of Hawaii because they’re ubiquitous on the islands. They’re called melia in Hawaiian.
A typical plumeria bloom has five pink petals with yellow edges. They’re a small flower. They smell the best at night time because that’s when moths come to pollinate them, but they smell delightful during the day, too.
You’ll find other colors, too, like white and orange and even purple flowers. The trees they grow on can get up to 40 feet tall if they’re flourishing.
Here’s another flower that you may have seen in a tea. The Hawaiian word for the bloom is pikake. There are many species all around the world, but the most iconic blossom is white, with tiny flowers that grow in a bunch.
The petals are long and pointy, and you might recognize them from a lei you had at a traditional luau. These and other native flowers get combined to make the iconic necklaces or headdresses that are part of the ceremony.
5. Maui Rose
This is the flower for the island of Maui on Lei Day. Also called Lokelani in Hawaiian, often these gorgeous pink blooms get worked into a lei with other blossoms.
Each island has a specific flower assigned to it for Lei Day. Each island elects a court with a king and queen to help celebrate the native culture of the islands. Kauai chooses a fruit to make their leis from.
Niihau uses a pupu shell, and Molokai uses kukui. Each flower or item is the color that’s assigned to the island (for example, kukui is green and Molokai’s chosen color).
6. Bird of Paradise
The middle of the flower looks like there’s a blue or purple bird launching itself into the air. You can almost see a beak and a crest in the shape of the flower.
These blooms are an iconic tropical flower that are sure to make you think of The Big Island and your visit there. They grow in warm climates with lots of rain. The outer petals are yellow or orange, and they surround the inner bloom that resembles the bird.
The plants are perennial and also grow in temperate climates, like South Africa. You might also have heard it called a crane lily.
The flowers of this can be many colors, and you might be surprised to learn that these are what you saw on your visit to the Hawaiian islands. While ginger roots are a familiar sight, in particular if you cook a lot, the flowers aren’t as recognizable.
The blooms are often white, but you might have seen blue or purple or even pink or yellow ones, too. The butter-colored stamens are long and stretch out far past the petals.
Ginger root and ginger tea can soothe an upset stomach. In fact, ginger suckers or candies get marketed to pregnant women to help with morning sickness.
Powdered ginger makes every fall baking experience better, including pumpkin pie and other spicy cakes and cookies.
On your strolls through beautiful gardens in Hawaii, or cruises through the jungle, you probably saw ginger plants and flowers. The good news for you is that you can grow this inside your home, even if the weather in your climate isn’t the right zone for growing them outdoors.
Tropical Beauty You Love
These beautiful native Hawaiian flowers are destined to be the best reminders of the Hawaiian islands. Whether you’re still planning your first trip, or you already had a romantic getaway, these blooms are beautiful iconic symbols of the island state.
You can cultivate hibiscus, jasmine, orchids, and many others at home to help bring back the sweet memories.
For other info on the romantic flowers of Hawaii, read more of our blog.
Hawaiian Hospitality Welcomes Like No Other
Many locals probably know Ho’okipa as a park in Maui – a place to surf or relax on the beach. But ho’okipa is much more than a beach or a park. The English translation is “hospitality,” but that is a word. Ho’okipa is a feeling, a sense of Hawaiian hospitality and even a way of life.
The tradition of welcoming guests and travelers with food and water is a literal description of ho’okipa. It is much like describing a marriage as a ceremony, in that the definition does not capture the true experience. The goal of ho’okipa is for the guest to know that they are important, that they matter, and that they are a welcome addition to the host’s lives, not a burden or a task.
An important aspect of ho’okipa lies in the choices made for how to welcome a guest. The tradition of greeting guests with a lei is long held. Remember that it is impolite to refuse a lei. Allow your host to place the lei around your neck and up on your shoulders.
Hosts also take great care in selecting the right foods to demonstrate their open and welcoming arms. Guests may not remember every detail of the meal, but, years later, they will remember the feeling of belonging. For ho’okipa, it truly is the thought that matters most.
When you select a gift, the goal is to please the recipient, to let them know that they are important, that they matter, and that they are a welcome addition in your life. Taking great care in selecting that gift can convey all that and more. Selecting something special, something outside of the everyday, is a great way to convey those thoughts. A unique gift of tropical flowers, or a gift basket of Hawaiian delicacies, or the world’s best coffee shows that your intent was much more than to send a gift. Your intention was for them to remember how important and welcome they are.
When you are ready to send not just a gift, but a feeling true Hawaiian hospitality, of ho’okipa, contact us.