Hawaiian Name: Ohia Lehua, Ohia
The Ohia is one of the most common Native Hawaiian Tree. An attribute to this plants commonality is that it can be found in a wide range of habitats and can range from small shrubs to 98 foot trees. This plant has distinct flowery tuffs that come in colors of red, pink, orange, white and yellow. The flowers are also sacred to the Hawaiian Lava god Pele. This common plant also is an essential part of the Hawaiian watershed The Hawaiians used the wood was used for flooring, firewood, and kapa( bark cloth) beaters.
Hawaiian name: Pili, Lule
This plant was the Hawaiians’ choice grass to be used for thatching. The common use of this plant helped Hawaiian houses earn the title of “grass shacks” The Hawaiians also used this plant for dye and as flooring pad. This grass is used to restore the United States Great Plains’ grasslands and prairies.( Image by Forest and Starr)
Hawaiian Name: Ilima
Ilima is a common plant that thrives in sunny and hot conditions. This plant was prized for it’s beautiful flowers that were strung into delicate leis. This is the offical flower for Oahu. However, many people don’t know that this flower is actually edible and can be eaten in salads.
Scientific Name: Nototrichium sandwicense
This native plant has silvery leaves and is very popular among landscapers. This plant is drought resistant so it’s good for those looking to create a xeriscaping garden. The Hawaiians packed the flowers and wood of this plant in bamboo and would toss it over a cliff to create something similar to a firework display.
* Polynesian Introduced
Hawaiian Name Niu
This is probably both the most recognizable palm tree and Hawaiian plant in the world. The Hawaiians used this plants’ fronds extensively for weaving. The fruit can also be eaten, in green form as a jello, or brown form as a tough meat. Incredibly, the fruit is edible for up 5 months while on a tree. Unlike in many TV shows and movies, coconuts actually have a fibrous husk surrounding the fruit that must be removed before cracking.
Hawaiian Names: Ki, Ti
This plant was another introduction by the Hawaiians to Hawaii. They used the Ti plant had a wide range of uses, ranging from, wrappings for food, thatching, medical purposes, plates, and clothes. The plant also was considered sacred to the god of agriculture ( Lono) and the godess of hula (Laka). An incredible demonstration of the use as a rain coat can be found here.
Scientific Name: Gardenia Brighamii
Hawaiian Name: Nanu, Na u
This is another popular easy to grow landscaping plant. However, it has become extremely difficult to find in the wild and has been listed on the federally endangered list. The Hawaiians used the pulp of this flower for a rich yellow dye reserved for chiefs.
Scientific Name: Thespesia populnea
Hawaiian Name: milo
This common tree can often be found in parks and provides solid shade. It was used by the Hawaiians to food utensils and containers because it left no bitter aftertaste. The bark also made a poor quality cordage and it’s fruit produced yellow and green dye. It’s not really clear why the Hawaiians brought this plant considering that it doesn’t appear to have any unique or essential uses.
Scientific Name: Pandanus tectorius
Hawaiian Name: Hala, Pu Hala
This plant is easily recognizable through its droopy leaves and the pineapple like appearance of it’s fruit. The mangrove like bottoms allows the hala to filter out small amounts of salt water and survive well on the coastline. The Hawaiians main use of this plant was it’s leaves. The leaves were used to weave, mats hats, plates, blankets, bags but most importantly they wove the sails of their voyaging canoes that carried them the thousands of miles to and from Hawaii.
Scientific Name: Gossypium Tomentosum
Hawaiian Name: Ma’o Huluhulu
These shrubs have large hibiscus like flowers, but produce relatively short cotton fibers that were not useful for cordage or cooking. However the hairs were used for tinder and used similarly to a cotton swab or Q tip. The plant is also resistant to many pests and disease of commercial cotton and has been cross bread with commercial types to create disease resistant hybrids( Image by Forest and Starr Kim)