tropical flowers plumeria pink

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.

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