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22 Wildflowers That Grow in Hawaii (Identification Guide With Pictures)

pua kala flower

Hawaii is well known for its beaches, palm trees, and amazing tropical weather. Rarely are wildflowers thought of when the state is brought up, though, and many people are surprised to see so many of them when they visit. Wildflowers typically grow where there isn’t much foot traffic, as they thrive in a wild environment.

However, residents and visitors alike can spot wildflowers along hiking trails, in parks, at beaches, and even near city sidewalks. So, here are 22 wildflowers that you may find growing in the Aloha State.

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The 22 Wildflowers That Grow in Hawaii

1. Black Medick

black medick
Image By: Ilona Ilyés, Pixabay
Common Locations: Maui, Kauai, Molokai, Hawaii
Scientific Name: Medicago lupulina

Also referred to as hop clover and yellow trefoil, black medick is a flowering plant that belongs to the clover family. This plant has small yellow flowers with tiny bunched-up leaves that stick out from the buds. This is a perennial plant that can reach up to about 30 inches in height.

2. Nehe

Lipochaeta_succulenta_(5491175146) Nehe or Seaside nehe Asteraceae
Lipochaeta succulenta (Image By: David Eickhoff, Wikimedia Commons, CC 2.0)
Common Locations: All islands
Scientific Name: Wollastonia inegrifolia

This hardy plant has long stems that can reach over 6 feet long, so they act as a thick ground cover wherever they grow. This plant grows thick, oval leaves that are typically about 1 inch long. Small yellow flowers that resemble daisies grow from the stems seasonally.

3. Pua Kala

pua kala plant
Image By: CTatiana, Shutterstock
 USDA Hardiness Region: Oahu, Hawaii, Kauai, Maui
Scientific Name: Argemone glauca

Lovingly thought of as the Hawaiian poppy by residents, this plant grows delicate white flowers that bloom for only 1 day. Blooming tends to happen sporadically throughout the year, so anyone who spots one or better yet, can pick one should consider themselves lucky.

4. Mamane

Common Locations: Oahu, Hawaii, Kauai, Maui, Molokai, Lanai
Scientific Name: Sophora chrysophylla

Mamane is a shrub that’s endemic to Hawaii, which means it isn’t found growing elsewhere in the world. This plant is part of the pea family and can grow up to 50 feet tall! Beautiful yellow flowers bloom during the spring and winter months.

5. Hawaiian Iliau

Common Locations: Kauai
Scientific Name: Wilkesia gymnoxiphium

The Hawaiian iliau can only be found growing on the island of Kauai, where it is considered an endangered species. This shrub grows on a thick, woody stalk that stands up to about 16 feet tall. It blooms fountains of flowers that typically thrive between the months of May and June.

6. Haha

Common Locations: Oahu
Scientific Name: Cyanea angustifolia

When mature, the haha shrub stands between 8 and 10 feet tall. It’s found growing in higher elevations of up to 2,500 feet where the soil is moist and the air is cool. The haha blooms purple, pink, or white flowers at various times throughout the year.

7. Molokai Ohaha

Common Locations: Molokai
Scientific Name: Brighamia rockii

The molokai ohaha belongs to the bellflower family and lives strictly on the island of Molokai. This flowering shrub likes to live on cliffs near sea level, where it doesn’t need much soil to thrive. Habitat loss due to foreign plants and a lack of pollination makes life for the Molokai Ohaha tough.

8. Koki’o

Common Locations: Molokai
Scientific Name: Kokia cookei

Sadly, this beautiful flowering plant is extinct in the wild. Although grown in parks and preservations, the koki’o is considered one of the rarest of all flowers in existence. It is believed that its wild extinction is due to a lack of Hawaiian honeycreepers, which themselves have become extinct.

9. Ohia Lehua

ohia lehua flower
Image Credit: Hulabear, Shutterstock
Common Locations: All islands
Scientific Name: Metrosideros polymorpha

The lehua flower grows on indigenous evergreen trees called ohias. This flowering tree is endemic to Hawaii and can be found growing close to the sea level and high up in the mountains. Most lehua flowers are red or yellow, but rare trees grow white flowers, which most people never get to see.

10. Kanawao

Common Locations: All islands
Scientific Name: Broussaisia arguta

As part of the Hydrangeacase family, this perennial plant grows only in Hawaii and blooms gorgeous flowers in colors like white, cream, pink, and blue. These long-lived plants are most commonly seen in higher elevations, where they thrive due to the birds eating their berries and dropping the seeds all over the landscape.

11. Oahu Riverhemp

Common Locations: Oahu, Hawaii, Molokai
Scientific Name: Sesbania tomentosa

A member of the pea family, the Oahu riverhemp blooms colorful flowers. These plants can grow as both shrubs and trees, but either way, they produce orange, red, scarlet, and yellow flowers.

12. Hinahina

Common Locations: All islands
Scientific Name: Geranium cuneatum

This low-growing shrub can be found growing on all islands of Hawaii. The flowers produced by this shrub are creamy white in color and have five long petals that may be lined with purple markings. Long fruit pods grow out of the flower buds, which makes them easy pickings for the birds.

13. Oahu Pilo Kea

Common Locations: Oahu
Scientific Name: Platydesma cornuta

Also called the alani plant by locals, the Oahu pilo kea is considered an endangered species that can be found growing in forest areas on the island of Oahu. These plants produce waxy white flowers that look like bells. The small flowers hang from the plant, which makes them look like holiday decorations.

14. Cosmosflower Beggarsticks

Common Locations: Kauaʻi
Scientific Name: Bidens cosmoides

This climbing plant can grow up to 8 feet in length in the wild, but only about half that when propagated in gardens. This plant grows amazingly large yellow flowers that are up to 3 inches in diameter. The flowers hang in groups of two or three from the plant’s branches.

15. Ma’ohi’ohi

Common Locations: All islands
Scientific Name: Stenogyne microphylla

This vine-like plant will latch onto trees and other plants nearby and grow on them. Some people call this plant Hawaiian mint, even though it doesn’t taste anything like regular mint. However, the ma’ohi’ohi does bloom beautiful flowers with flowy petals that are typically yellow with pink markings.

16. Ohe’ohe

Common Locations: Kauai
Scientific Name: Polyscias racemosa

This flowering tree can grow up to 25 feet tall when mature and has long branches that spread out from the top of the trunk. The branches grow strands of hundreds of tiny yellow flowers at a time. The blooms are produced during the summer months, at which time, the leaves tend to fall off.

17. Uki Uki

Common Locations: All islands
Scientific Name: Dianella sandwicensis

This is a long-lived flowering plant that’s endemic to all of Hawaii. It grows in different ways depending on its location. Some plants become short, compact shrubs, while others become loose, tall shrubs. Either way, they produce tiny flowers and dark purplish-blue berries that have been traditionally used as a dye for clothing and other goods by Hawaiians.

18. Ko’oloa’ula

Common Locations: All islands
Scientific Name: Abutilon menziesii

This eye-catching shrub is considered an endangered species, so it is incorporated into landscaping to help maintain its viability. The ko’oloa’ula shrub typically produces vibrant red flowers, but these can sometimes produce pink, yellow, or even cream-colored petals.

19. Ma’o Hau Hele

Common Locations: All islands
Scientific Name: Hibiscus brackenridgei

The Ma’o Hau Hele is how Hawaiians refer to the official state flower, the yellow hibiscus. Th is brightly colored flowering plant can grow in the wild or in pots on a person’s lanai (balcony). Sadly, it’s endangered in the wild today. This flower lives on due to the efforts of residents to incorporate it into their landscapes.

20. Hawaiian Red Cranesbill

Common Locations: Maui
Scientific Name: Geranium arboreum

This rare wild species of geranium (often called Hawaiian geranium by locals) lives only on the island of Maui. The plant grows deep, fuchsia-colored flowers and rough-edged leaves. Birds are responsible for pollination, but even so, it has been recognized as an endangered species, like so many other endemic flowers of Hawaii.

21. Awapuhi

Common Locations: Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Maui
Scientific Name: Zingiber zerumbet

This fragrant wild ginger grows on most islands in the state of Hawaii. The small bulbs that grow out of thick stems stick up in the air and grow fragile white flowers that help the ginger thrive. This plant is commonly used as a compress to relieve bruises, cuts, and toothaches.

22. Naupaka

Common Locations: All islands
Scientific Name: Scaevola taccada

The Naupaka shrub grows most commonly near the ocean and high up in the mountains. The plant produces unique flowers that look like half of the petals are missing, which is why it is the source of an ancient Hawaiian legend that involves two lovers being separated.

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While flowers may not be the first thing on your mind when it comes to visiting the state of Hawaii, it’s a good idea to keep your eyes peeled, as you might have the pleasure of spotting a rare wildflower growing near a beach or hiking trail. Don’t forget to keep your camera or smartphone handy just in case!

Featured Image Credit: CTatiana, Shutterstock


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