What is a Native Hawaiian Plant?
A native Hawaiian plant is defined as one that got to Hawai’i initially via natural processes. More specifically, the species arrived by one of the “Three W’s”:
- Wind (by riding wind currents)
- Wing (stuck in the feathers or ingested in the stomach of a migratory bird)
- Wave (by riding ocean currents)
This newly introduced species is considered indigenous, meaning it is now native to Hawai’i as well as elsewhere in the world. Once this species has been in Hawai’i long enough for evolution to differentiate it significantly from its original ancestor(s), it is considered endemic to Hawai’i. This means the particular species is completely unique to Hawai’i and can be found nowhere else in the world.
Hawai’i has roughly 1,100 known native plant species. Of these, a staggering 90% are considered endemic! This is due in large part to the age of our island chain (about 70 million years old) and our isolation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (the Hawaiian Islands are considered the most isolated landmass on earth). These two factors, coupled with the fact that Hawai’i was once completely void of many of the plant predators common to the rest of the world (most notably large grazing mammals), has resulted in the evolutionary diversity that has made our native Hawaiian plants so very unique.
- ‘Awapuhi (ginger)
- He’e (octopus tree)
- Kiawe (mesquite)
- Koa haole (Haolekoa)
- Kuawa (guava)
- Laua’e Fern
- Liliko’i (passion fruit)
- ‘Ohai ali’i
- Pua kenikeni
- Pua melia (plumeria)
- Tiare (Tahitian Gardenia)
- Waiwi ‘ula’ula (strawberry guava)