Hawaiian culture is commonly associated with the giving of ceremonial leis, or floral garlands. These necklaces of flowers are given for greetings, weddings, accomplishments and as a sign of respect. The distinctive bright flowers of tropical Hawaii carry their own symbolic language. Historically, only royalty wore fragrant flowers, particularly jasmine, while commoners arrayed themselves in unscented blooms.
Hawaii's state flower is the hibiscus. Traditionally, the flower is worn behind one ear to signify whether the wearer is romantically attached or single. Wearing the flower behind the left ear indicates that a woman is in a relationship and is uninterested in attracting a man, whereas tucking the blossom behind the right ear announces that a woman is open to promises. The showy, vividly colored blooms of the hibiscus signify "delicate beauty."
Bird of Paradise
The striking orange orange blue bird of paradise blossom is indigenous to Hawaii. This exotic flower speaks of both magnificence and joy. Distinctive blooms nestle among the shiny leaves of the hibiscus bush like a dramatic bird hiding in the foliage. Birds of paradise are called Li'ipoe, which means "little globe," by native Hawaiians.
Sweetly fragrant plumeria is a Hawaiian flower frequently featured in leis. Bright pink or creamy, yellow-centered blossoms grow in clusters redolent with scent. Blooming from early summer through autumn, the plumeria is cultivated abundantly in Hawaii. Also called frangipani, plumeria flowers symbolize perfection, springtime and new beginnings. Perfumers prize plumeria for its distinctive heady fragrance.
Red Tower Ginger
This spiky red blossom resembles a pineapple's pointed foliage or a vermilion-colored pine cone. Spiral-formed and recognizable, red tower ginger is cultivated widely in Hawaii. The flower carries a meaning of both diversity and limitless wealth, rendering it a welcome gift for container gardens as well as striking floral arrangements.
Orchids grow in tropical locales, and Hawaii is no exception. Four varieties of this exotic flower are indigenous to Hawaii. Though the Big Island has been nicknamed the Orchid Isle, this is due to the orchid farms where the blooms are cultivated for export rather than for any overgrowth of native blossoms. Most varieties of orchids can be found in the Hawaiian Islands because of the flower industry. Symbolic of refinement and beauty, Hawaiian orchids grow naturally in the rain forest areas and produce bright, small flowers.
- aloha image by Mark Aplet from Fotolia.com