Have you ever wondered about the plants that are native to Hawaii? If you don’t already know, we wanted to share this information with those living and traveling here. Native plants are those that grow naturally in a region, plants that were not introduced by humans. There are two types of native plants, endemic and indigenous. Endemic plants are native to only one place in the World, while indigenous plants are native to multiple places around the World. Because of its isolation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii has an unusually high proportion (89 percent) of endemic native plant species.There are approximately 1,400 plants native to the state of Hawaii. Nearly 90 percent of these plants cannot be found anywhere else in the world! I will just name a few of these plants (and my personal favorites).
‘Ohi’a Lehua (Hawaiian name)- Metrosideros polymorpha (Scientific name)
This tree is native (endemic) to Hawaii. The flowers on this tree can appear in many different colors, but are most commonly seen in red. As a kid, we would call these the paint brush trees, because the flowers look like a big paint brush with soft brissels. The flowers are filled with nectar, and an important food source for the endemic Hawaiian honeycreepers (birds in the subfamily Drepanidinae). This tree is the most abundant and widespread in the Hawaiian islands. It is one of the first trees to colonize recent lava flows. The trees can grow up to 100 feet tall.
Ma’o Hau Hele (Hawaiian name)- Hibiscus brackenridgei (Scientific name)
This beautiful shrub and flower is most commonly known as the Yellow Hibiscus. This plant is native (endemic) to Hawaii and is also the Hawaii state flower. The flowers can grow up to the size of a hand! Although beautiful, you will not be able to catch any scent with these flowers. Sometimes the yellow hibiscus will have a solid red center, contrasting against the yellow. Other times you will see splotches of red at the base of each petal, or all yellow ones.
Hala (Hawaiian name)-Pandanus tectorius
Here in Hawaii, this beautiful native tree grows in the coastal lowlands, near the edge of the ocean. There is fruit on these trees, and the fruit is buoyant, salt water tolerant, and can spread to new land areas via the ocean current. This is also the only Pandanus species found in Hawaii. A good way of recognizing these trees is because they almost look like giant pineapple trees. Many tourists mistake them for pineapples! The fruits are edible and certain varieties have better fruit. They may be eaten either raw or cooked!
Dicranopteris linearis – Old World Forkedfern
This beautiful green fern is a very common, colonia, vining fern. It has long, tough, wiry, and highly branched stems that sprawl across the ground. They form impassable pieces over disturbed areas such as old lava flows. Pretty cool what plants can do, right?!
Now that you know the plants that are native to Hawaii, you can go look for them in the wild! There are so many more beautiful plants then just these, and we highly recommend exploring the islands and discovering all that they have to offer. The Hana Rainforest is one of the greenest and wettest areas of Maui, offering many varieties of plant species and flowers. This is a great place on Maui for waterfall hiking, beautiful views, and discovering plants.