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Hawaiian hibiscus flowers are full, conspicuously large tropical flowers with toothed edge leaves 4 to 6 inches in diameter. Each leaf has between 3 and 7 lobes.  The flowers grow on a hibiscus shrub, which itself grows to a height of 3 to 15 feet tall with a diameter of 8 to 15 feet. Young Hawaiian hibiscus plants have smooth tan trunks; the trunks of older plants have a wrinkled appearance.  Hawaiian hibiscus are yellow, generally with a maroon center, and form singly or in small clusters at the ends of the branches, however, hibiscus flowers also come in a variety of beautiful colors, including pink, white, orange and red.  The staminal column of the Hawaiian hibiscus flowers is yellow, and the flowers open between 2 and 4 p.m. and close between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.  Hawaiian hibiscus flowers do not need water after you pick them, and will last about a day or two without water.

Hawaiian hibiscus flowers are found on all the main Hawaiian islands except Ni'ihau and Kaho'olawe, but the flowers are not common in any location.  Hawaiian hibiscus bloom from spring through early summer with occasional flowers during the rest of the year.The Hawaiian hibiscus is an extremely common flower throughout the Hawaiian Islands. There are many different shapes, sizes, colors, and species of this flower.  Wherever you go in the Hawaiian not only will you see hibiscus plants on roadsides and residential neighborhoods, but you also will find the image of Hawaiian hibiscus proudly displayed on storefronts, logos, t-shirts and on various Hawaiian jewelry and tropical decor. 

The yellow hibiscus originated in Asia and the Pacific islands. Interestingly, it is also the national flower of Malaysia. This species is a true tropical hibiscus, and it is believed that there were originally only five species of hibiscus native to Hawaii. Later other varieties were imported and growers began to develop hybrids to produce the kaleidoscope of colors and sizes found today.

The striking and beautiful yellow hibiscus (hibiscus brackenridgei), known as the pua aloalo in the Hawaiian language, is the official state flower of Hawaii.  In 1923 Hawaii was still a territory, and the yellow hibiscus was adopted as the state's flower following its promotion by an organization called "The Outdoor Circle." In 1950, when statehood was being anticipated by the Hawaiians, a resolution was introduced stating: "Hawaii's official flower shall be the ilima, the flower of old royalty." Many Hawaiians felt that the ilima should be the state's flower because the famed ilima leis were always presented to dignitaries who came to Hawaii. Two other exotic flowers, the lehua and the vanda, were also considered. However, when a vote was taken the ilima was chosen as the winner.

Hawaii officially became the fiftieth state of America in 1959. The realization that the ilima had never been changed from being Hawaii's territorial flower to her state flower didn't surface until nearly thirty years later. To solve this problem, the Hawaii legislature decided to legally adopt the flower that had for so long been considered official.  On June 6, 1988, Hawaii changed its state flower from the native red hibiscus (Hibiscus kokio) to the ma'ohauhele, the only species of yellow hibiscus that can be called our state flower.

Although the hibiscus (a plant cultivated for its blooms or blossoms) is associated with the Hawaiian Islands in the Pacific Ocean and the plant family Malvaceae includes a variety of species that are native to the Hawaiian Islands, those flowers regularly observed are generally not the native hibiscus flowers.

Below is a list of different-colored Hawaiian hibiscus flowers, with a brief description of each:

Red Hibiscus Flower
The red variety of the Hawaiian hibiscus flower is the most common. It was introduced in the middle of the 19th century, and originated in Asia.  Two more varieties of the red hibiscus flower are white. They are both native to the islands. Most varieties don’t have a scent, but these ones do. They are no longer commonly seen in the wild, but sometimes can be found on O’ahu and Kaua’i.

Yellow Hibiscus Flower
The yellow hibiscus flower grows in the wild throughout all of the Hawaiian islands, is Hawaii's official state flower.

Pink Hibiscus Flower
Although you will find the pink variety on all the islands, it is very common on Kaua’i. It has sandpapery , heart-shaped leaves, and the flower looks a little wrinkled. According to Hawaiian legend, wearing a pink hibiscus flower is believed to have helped a woman stay healthy during pregnancy.

Orange Hibiscus Flower
You will find the orange hibiscus on most Hawaiian islands, and they are very large, and brightly colored, but are usually only found in cultivated gardens. They can be as big as 8 inches in width.

Uses of Hawaiian Hibiscus:

There are several valuable uses for Hawaiian hibiscus plants on the islands of Hawaii.  The main use of the hibiscus flower is beautiful is as a table decoration displayed in Hawaiian homes and hotels and at traditional Hawaiian weddings and Hawaiian luaus. However, many Hawaiian women and female visitors to Hawaii, wear hibiscus flowers in their hair as tropical fashion. Other women tuck a hibiscus flower behind their ear, signifying their relationship status and availability for marriage.

The bark of the hibiscus contains strong fibers. They can be obtained by letting the stripped bark sit in the sea in order to let the organic material rot away. In Polynesia, these fibers (called fau, pūrau) are used for making grass skirts worn by hula dancers at festive Hawaiian occasion like luaus. They bark of the hibiscus has also been used to make wigs.

There are many online florists who deliver hibiscus flowers directly from Hawaii. You can also find a variety of Hawaiian hibiscus products at local Hawaiian shops, as well through select online merchants who appreciate the significance and beauty of our state flower.  

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