Island Emblems

Island Emblems

Each of the Hawaiian Islands has its own emblem as designated by the Territorial Legislature in 1923.  The State of Hawai‘i also has its own emblem.

These symbols are all flowers or plants, except for Ni‘ihau’s emblem, which is a seashell.  Each Hawaiian Island is also represented by a color associated with its emblem.


Symbols of the Hawaiian Islands


Island: Hawai‘i Island

Emblem: Pua Lehua (Flower)

Species: ‘Ōhi‘a Lehua (Metrosideros species)

Color: Red


Island: Maui

Emblem: Pua Lokelani (Flower)

Species: LokelaniDamask Rose (Rosa species)                

Color: Pink


Island: Moloka‘i

Emblem: Pua Kukui                       

Species: Candlenut (Aleurites moluccana)

Color: Green


Island: Lāna‘i             

Emblem: Kauna‘oa (Vine)       

Species: Kauna‘oa—Dodder (Cuscuta sandwichiana)

Color: Orange


Island: Kaho‘olawe   

Emblem: Hinahina (Leaves)

Species: Hinahina (Heliotropum anomalum var. argenteum)

Color: Silver-Gray


Island: O‘ahu    

Emblem: Pua ‘Ilima (Flowers)

Species: ‘Ilima (Sida fallax)

Color: Yellow


Island: Kaua‘i

Emblem: Mokihana (berries)

Species: Mokihana (Pelea anisata)

Color: Purple



Emblem: Pūpū Ni‘ihau

Species: Pūpū Ni‘ihau (shells)

          Kahelelani (Leptothyra verruca)

          Momi (Euplica varians)

          Laiki (Mitrella margarita)

Color: White


·                    The State of Hawai‘i’s emblem is pua ma‘o hau hele, also known as the yellow hibiscus (Hibiscus brackenridgei).

When hibiscus was named the official flower of the Territory of Hawai‘i by the Legislature in 1923, they didn’t specify any particular one of the many varieties of the hibiscus, leading to some confusion. 

The various colors and types of hibiscus (including numerous introduced species) were said by some to represent the Hawaiian Islands’ unique ethnic mix. 

Eventually many considered the native red hibiscus or the red Chinese species to be the state flower.  Hawai‘i’s State Legislature clarified the issue in 1988 when it named the native yellow hibiscus, Hibiscus brackenridgei, to be the official state flower.

(See Aloalo in Native Plants and Ferns of the Hawaiian Islands, Chapter 8.)  Hibiscus brackenridgei is on the federal endangered species list.

[Photograph: Pua ma‘o hau hele lei]


·                    The emblem of the island of Hawai‘i (the Big Island) is pua lehua, the blossom of the native ‘ōhi‘a lehua tree (Metrosideros species).  Lehua flowers are tufts of scarlet red, orange, yellow, or white (rarely). 

Beautiful lei are woven from the flowers, unopened buds and young silvery leaves (liko) of ‘ōhi‘a lehua.  ‘Ōhi‘a lehua is also considered sacred to Pele, the goddess of fire and volcanoes. (See ‘Ōhi‘a Lehua in Native Plants of the Hawaiian Islands, Chapter 8.) 

A Hawaiian proverb states, “E mana‘o a‘e ana e lei i ka lehua o Mokaulele” (“A wish to wear the lehua of Mokaulele in a lei”), which is “...a wish to win the maiden.  Lei symbolizes sweetheart, and lehua, a pretty girl.”[i]

[Photograph: Pua lehua lei]


·                    Maui’s emblem is pua lokelani (Rosa species), the aromatic flower of the small pink damask rose.  Pua lokelani, also known as the “rose of heaven,” is a post-contact introduced species that is often used for lei and commonly mixed with other flowers as well as ferns. (See Lokelani in Lei Flowers section.)

[Photograph: Pua lokelani lei]


·                    Moloka‘i’s emblem is pua kukui, the flower of the kukui tree (Aleurites moluccana, candlenut), which is also Hawai‘i’s official state tree. 

            Kukui’s small white flowers have five petals, grow in clusters, and are covered with a silvery-gray down.  The leaves and the flowers are strung into lei, as are the polished kukui nuts. 

            The oil from kukui nuts was traditionally used as a light source, and for various other purposes including numerous medicinal uses.

            (See Kukui in Lei Flowers and Seed Lei sections, Chapter 3; also see Polynesian-Introduced Plants, Chapter 9.)

[Photograph: Pua kukui lei]


·                    Lāna‘i’s emblem is kauna‘oa (Cuscuta sandwichiana), a rusty-orange vine that is also known as dodder.  Kauna‘oa has tiny round fruits and pointed flowers.  The stringy stems are often braided together into strands for lei. (See Kauna‘oa in Lei Flowers section, Chapter 3; and Native Plants of the Hawaiian Islands, Chapter 8.)

[Photograph: Kauna‘oa lei]






·                    HEKaho‘olawe’s emblem is a perennial herb called hinahina (Heliotropium anomalum var. argenteum).




Hinahina grows on the beach above the high water line, and has hairy, silvery-green leaves and stems, and fragrant white flowers with yellow centers.  The leaves and flowers of hinahina are twisted into open-ended garlands.

            Today the non-native Spanish moss (also called Florida moss, gray beard, and hinahina) is often substituted for the native hinahina.

            (See Hinahina in Island Flowers and Lei section, Chapter 3; and Native Plants and Ferns of the Hawaiian Islands, Chapter 8; also see Spanish Moss in Island Flowers and Lei section, Chapter 3.)


[Photograph: Hinahina lei]


·                    O‘ahu’s emblem is pua ‘ilima, the flower of ‘ilima (Sida fallax). 

            ‘Ilima is a small, thin hibiscus flower that is yellow to orange in color, and about 1 inch (2.5 cm) across with five petals.  ‘Ilima is a popular lei flower in the Hawaiian Islands today, just as it was in ancient Hawai‘i.

Honor and respect among dignitaries is often shown with a velvety rope of carefully strung, bright orange ‘ilima petals.  ‘Ilima flowers are extremely thin, and a lei may take 700 to 1,000 of the blossoms. 

‘Ilima flowers are sometimes interwoven with maile. (See ‘Ilima in Lei Flowers section, Chapter 3; and Native Plants and Ferns of the Hawaiian Islands, Chapter 8.)

            [Photograph: Pua ‘ilima lei]


·                    Kaua‘i’s emblem is the fruit of the mokihana plant (Pelea anisata), a member of the rue family.  Mokihana’s yellowish-green to purplish seed capsules are about ½-inch (13 mm) in diameter. 

            A mokihana lei is made by stringing together the seed capsules after piercing them through their centers.  Mokihana is often strung together with strands of maile. (See Mokihana in Seed Lei section.)

Mokihana’s seed capsules are leathery to the touch, and have a very strong anise-like fragrance that becomes stronger as the seeds dry.  Some people are sensitive to the oily substance from mokihana, which may cause blisters.

Traditional lei stringers are proud of the scars on their fingers from stringing mokihana lei. (See Mokihana in Native Plants and Ferns of the Hawaiian Islands, Chapter 8.)

[Photograph: Mokihana lei]


·                     Ni‘ihau’s emblem is the prized Ni‘ihau shell, pūpū Ni‘ihau, which is actually a general term for three different varieties of shells collected on the island beaches and strung into beautiful lei. 

            The three primary types of shells used for the traditional Ni‘ihau shell lei are kahelelani (Leptothyra verruca), momi (Euplica varians) and laiki (Mitrella margarita).  The colors of the shells range from deep brown to pearly white.  While these shells are also found on other Hawaiian Islands, they lack the rich luster of the prized Ni‘ihau shell lei.

Pūpū Ni‘ihau show many variations caused by waves and sunlight as well as genetic differences.  At least 30 different Hawaiian names describe the particular colors and patterns. (See Ni‘ihau Shell Lei section, Chapter 3.)

[Photographs: Kahelelani; momi; and laiki in Ni‘ihau shell lei]

[i]p. 43, Pukui, Mary Kawena.  ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings.  Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983.  Proverb 352.