Situated on the western part of the Hawaiian island chain, Kauai is the fourth largest in the state. Circular in shape, it has 90 miles of coastline with 562 square miles of land. Stunningly beautiful, Kauai is known for its lush foliage, long white sand beaches, and beautiful flowers.
Home to an abundance of exotic vegetation and flowers, most of these plants are not native to the island. Over thousands of years, the vegetation has been carried by sea winds, birds, and people. The flowers are particularly spectacular on Kauai. The unique ecosystem of the island has made it a perfect place for the many varieties to thrive.
Listed below are ten of the island’s most beautiful and unusual flowers and some fun facts about each of them.
Fun Facts About The Flowers Of Kauai
1. Anthurium Flowers
Fun Fact: For every leaf the plant produces, there is a corresponding flower
Anthuriums come in a variety of colors: red, purple, orange, white, peach, green, and pink. There are some varieties of the plant that will have more than one color of the flower where the colors are either blended or have a splattered look. Just as the colors vary, the flowers themselves can be heart-shaped, cupped, flat, or teardrop-shaped. Growing mostly in the shade, the Anthurium likes soil that has a combination of coconut husks, bark, sawdust, dirt, and macadamia nutshells.
2. Awapuhi Ginger
Fun Fact: Mature flowers produce a foamy juice that can be used to wash your hair.
The Awapuhi-kuahiwi flowers are green when they first appear but turn to a bright red as they mature. The Chocolate Shampoo Ginger is a brown color that has a pleasant scent and has the juice that you can wash your hair with. The leaf stalks grow to five feet long and prefer the shade. The flowers grow from the base of the plant. The Awapuhi will flower for about three or four months and then go dormant for the rest of the year. Polynesians used the Awapuhi plant stems for treating toothaches, headaches, cuts, bruises, and skin diseases.
3. The Beehive Ginger
Fun Fact: The Latin genus name Zingiber is a Sanskrit word that means "shaped like a horn."
The Beehive Ginger flower is so unique and unusual looking. The flower does not look real to most people. They look like the flower is carved out of beeswax. A clumping herbaceous plant, the Beehive grows up to 15 feet or more. The flowers turn from yellow to red to orange and grow in a cylindrical spike. Edible ginger has been used for commerce for centuries, and while the flower is beautiful, they are also grown for their roots. Early Greeks and Romans wrote about using ginger as a spice.
Fun Fact: This species can grow without soil!
There are thousands of species of the Bromeliad family that grow throughout North and South America. In Kauai, they grow in the branches of trees or on the volcanic rocks. The most well known Bromeliad in Kauai is the Pineapple, which is produced in large quantities. It is called "Hala Kahiki." The fibers of the pineapple bromeliad are made into thread, fabric, and rope. Before sugar cane, Pineapple was the primary crop grown on Kauai. The Akukini Railway, a narrow-gauge railroad, would transport both the Pineapple and sugar cane to ships in Hanamaulu Harbor during the 1920s. Also known as air plants, they are nourished by the air and rain.
Fun Fact: They are called Rattlesnake Shakers because the flowers have the appearance of scales, and when the flower dries, the seeds inside make a shaking sound.
The official name for the flowers is Calathea, but they are called Shakers because of the sound they make with the seeds inside, as was mentioned above. The "scales" look serpent-like and interweave to form a unique pattern. The flowers, or shakers, can range from six to twelve inches tall with little yellow flowers within the bracts (a modified leaf or scale) themselves. They grow in upright clusters from the stems of eight-foot leaves. Having bright green leaves, the Shaker flowers all year round in Kauai.
6. The Giant Red Caribaea
Fun Fact: The flowers are 14” to 18” tall
These are one of the most dramatic flowers on the island. Giant Red is a variety of Heliconia flowers. One of the largest in the world, the Giant Red Caribaea, has flowers that are 14" to 18" tall. The plant itself can be 20 feet in height. The name "heliconia" comes from Mount Helicon in Greece, which was a sanctuary for the Muses who were divine spirits of inspiration in Greek mythology. The Giant Red originated in the Caribbean, was introduced to Kauai in the 1950s, where it has continued to thrive.
7. Heliconia Flowers
Fun Fact: The leaves can be used for roof thatching or as a wrapper for food.
One of the leading families of tropical flowers grown in Kauai, Heliconias have over 89 species that grow very quickly in the tropical weather. There are more than 350 varieties that range from 1 ½ foot to over 30 feet tall. If left unattended, Heliconias can grow in dense and impenetrable groups. One of the main flowers that Kauai flower growers sell, they come in a wide variety of hues. Combinations of colors range from reds, oranges, whites, greens, yellows, and pinks. The petal-like spikes on the side of the flowers are called bracts. When heliconias were first discovered, they were classified as part of the banana family as the leaves, and growing patterns are very similar. However, as they did not produce fruit, a new family was formed for this beautiful flower.
8.The Indonesian Wax Ginger
Fun Fact: The dark red cone-shaped flowers look like upside-down pineapples.
Much like the Beehive Ginger, the Indonesian Wax Ginger looks like it is made out of wax or plastic. Hard to the touch, these flowers are spiky. They will go dormant over the winter and then make an appearance from late spring until early fall. Indonesian gingers can grow over eight feet tall with four-foot flower stems that sprout from the base of the plant. Native to Malaysia, the Indonesian Wax Ginger does exceptionally well in Kauai's tropical environment.
9. The Lei
Fun Fact: The custom of giving Lei's is Polynesian, not Hawaiian.
A lei has long been a symbol of Hawaii. While it is not one specific flower, a Lei is synonymous with Hawaii. It is a garland of flowers that shows friendship, is a welcome or show of love. A lei is also used to celebrate or honor someone. The custom of giving leis was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by voyaging Polynesians. "Lei Day" was made official by the last queen of the Hawaiian monarchy, Queen Liliuokalani, on May 1st, 1929. On the island of Kauai, Lei Day is celebrated with an annual May Day Lei contest. Both professionals and non-professionals lei-makers alike compete to make intricately woven leis using thousands of flowers. It has become a signature event on the island of Kauai each year on May 1st since 1979.
10. The Mokihana
Fun Fact: It is not a flower!
Each of the Hawaiian Islands has chosen a flower to be their official island flower. Kauai’s flower isn’t a flower at all. The Mokihana (pelea anisata) is a green berry. It is only grown on the slopes of Mount Waialeale in Kauai’s rainforest. These hardy berries have a scent of anise. The berries are strung like beads with woven strands of maile.
A spectacular paradise, Kauai has more beaches, rivers, streams, and waterfalls than any of the other Hawaiian islands. Over 97% of the land on Kauai is used for conservation and agriculture. With near-perfect weather that ranges from 75 to 85 degrees, there is not much change from season to season. This makes it an excellent place for all of the beautiful flowers that call Kauai home. This island prizes the flowers that are part of their heritage and are one of their main exports. Author and poet Don Blandings is credited with the idea of Lei Day in 1927. He penned this poem about the beloved Lei.