LEHUA BLOSSOMS are the brilliant pom-pom like flowers of the ōhiʻa or ōhiʻa lehua tree, A Hawaiian native that’s found everywhere on its 6 largest islands. The plant has astonishing adaptive characteristics and has an unforgettable native Hawaiian legend. As such, the lehua blossom is not only a symbol of enduring love, but it is also a symbol renewal and resilience.
It is said that one day the fire goddess, Pele, fell in love with a young handsome warrior named Ohi’a and asked him to marry her. Ohi’a, however, had already pledged his love to the beautiful Lehua from his same village. Pele was furious when Ohi’a turned down her advances, so she turned Ohi’a into a gnarled tree. Lehua was heartbroken and cried non-stop by the tree that was once her beloved. The other gods noticed the injustice of their separation and took pity on Lehua. They turned Lehua into an amazing flower that blooms year round and placed it onto the twisted tree so the two lovers would be forever joined together. The legend also says that while flowers remain on the tree, the weather will remain sunny and fair. But when a flower is plucked from the tree, then heavy rain would fall upon the land like tears from Lehua for she still cannot bear to be separated from Ohi’a. Read more about this legend at: American Folklore.
VERSATILITY & RESLIENCE
The plant itself is perhaps even more amazing. A member of the myrtle family, the ōhiʻa lehua is the most common native Hawaiian plant with survival skills and variability that are staggering. It tolerates a wide range of soil conditions, temperature, and rainfall, and therefore can be found everywhere. It grows from sea level all the way to the tree line at high elevations. It thrives in both moist and dry forests. It can grow to 80+ feet tall in favorable situations and flourish as a short 1foot tall shrub when growing in boggy soils or directly on lava rock. Even its branches, root structure and leave size and shape can vary depending on different conditions.
Ohiʻa lehua is also the first plant to come back after lava flow destroys all of the vegetation in its path. As Native Plant Hawaii states, “probably no other native Hawaiian plant is found in a greater number of varieties than this one. The sheer number and variations of ʻōhiʻa shrub and tree forms, leaf colors and shapes, and floral colors boggles the imagination!”
EARLY AND MODERN USES
Early Hawaiians had many uses for this incredible plant. The wood is a superior fire wood that burns cleanly. It’s exceptionally hard, so it was fashioned into kapa beaters in making kappa cloth, musical instruments, kālāʻau (dancing sticks), spears, pāhoa (daggers), lāʻau (clubs), mallets, and interior seats for canoes among others. Early Hawaiians also used lehua blossoms and leaves for medicinal purposes such as pain relieve and as a treatment for thrush in children or to facilitate digestion.
Today as in the early days, the lehua flowers, seed capsules and liko (new leaves) are used for some of the post priced leis. The strong wood of the ohi’a lehua is still much valued for flooring, furniture, decorative poles and ukulele keys among other products. Leaves are still used as a pleasant tea in folk remedies. To learn more about this amazing plant, go to Native Plant Hawaii.
A newly identified disease has killed large numbers of mature ʻōhiʻa trees in forests and residential areas on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. Containment is the first remedy as they study possible causes and find ways to combat the disease. You can learn more about from the College of Tropical Agriculture at the University of Hawaii’s.
OUR LEHUA BLOSSOM ALOHA SHIRT
Beginning its journey as an original painting, our Lahua Blosoom print showcases this amazing plant with textured nuance. Each background color was chosen to represent its habitat. Blue for ōhiʻa lehua growing by the ocean. Coal for those thriving in lava rock fields. White for those found high up on mountaintops. If you ever experience nature trails in Hawaii, the one thing you’ll also see are the fiery red lehua blossoms.
Check out all 3 colors of our Limited Edition Lehua Blossom and share the story of its legend and nature. Help Hawaii protect and conserve.