USA Newspapers Official Hawaii State Flower


Native Yellow Hibiscus

Pua Aloalo or Ma`o-hau- hele

(Hibiscus brackenridgei A. Gray)
Adopted on June 6, 1988.


The striking and beautiful yellow hibiscus ,hibiscus brackenridgei, known as the pua aloalo in the Hawaiian language, is the state flower.? It was adopted on June 6, 1988.

Hawaii's state flower originated in Asia and the Pacific islands. Interestingly, it is also the national flower of Malaysia. This species is a true tropical hibiscus belonging to the Malvaceae, or mallow family. It is believed that there were originally only five species of hibiscus native to Hawaii. Later other varieties were imported and growers began to develop hybrids to produce the kaleidoscope of colors and sizes found today.


In 1923 Hawaii was still a territory, and the ilima was adopted as the state's flower following its promotion by an organization called "The Outdoor Circle." In 1950, when statehood was being anticipated by the Hawaiians, a resolution was introduced stating: "Hawaii's official flower shall be the ilima, the flower of old royalty." Many Hawaiians felt that the ilima should be the state's flower because the famed ilima leis were always presented to dignitaries who came to Hawaii. Two other exotic flowers, the lehua and the vanda, were also considered. However, when a vote was taken the ilima was chosen as the winner.

Hawaii officially became the fiftieth state of America in 1959. The realization that the ilima had never been changed from being Hawaii's territorial flower to her state flower didn't surface until nearly thirty years later! To solve this problem, the legislature decided to legally adopt the flower that had for so long been considered official.

Therefore on June 6, 1988, Hawaii changed its state flower from the native red hibiscus (Hibiscus kokio) to the ma'ohauhele, the only species of yellow hibiscus that can be called our state flower.


Description: Ma'ohauhele is a shrub that grows up to 10 feet, with maplelike leaves and bright yellow flowers. It varies in appearance among islands but generally falls into two subspecies: H. brackenridgei subspecies brackenridge of Maui, Molokai, Lanai and the Big Island, and H. brackenridgei subspecies mokuleianus of Oahu and Kauai.

The most visible difference between the two subspecies is in the leaves and stems. The leaves of subspecies mokuleianus have more serrated margins and pink veins with tiny spines on the branches. Subspecies brackenridgei, on the other hand, has leaves with more rounded margins and yellow veins, and it lacks the tiny spines on its branches.


Does well in full sun to partial shade and needs very little water, although daily watering is OK. It is a fast grower and will flower about twice a year. Each flowering period lasts up to two months, with blooms occurring daily on a flowering stalk that rises above the plant.


Distribution: This is an endangered species found in the dry to mesic forests of all main islands except Niihau (it was once reportedly collected from Kahoolawe).


Official flowers and colors for each island is as follows: 2000

  • Hawai`i, Red Lehua (Ohia)
  • Maui, Lokelani - Pink Cottage Rose (Rosa damascena)
  • Moloka`i, White Kukui Blossom (Aleurites moluccana)
  • Kaho`olawe, Hinahina -Beach Heliotrope (Heliotropium anomalum, var. argenteum)
  • Lana`i, Kaunaoa -Yellow and Orange Air Plant (Cuscuta sandwichiana)
  • O`ahu, Ilima (Sida fallax)
  • Kaua`i, Mokihana - Green Berry (Pelea anisata)
  • Ni`ihau, White Pupu Shell

Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom Plantae -- Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta -- Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta -- Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta -- Flowering plants
Class Magnoliopsida -- Dicotyledons
Subclass Dilleniidae ?
Order Malvales ?
Family Malvaceae ? Mallow family
Genus Hibiscus L. ? rosemallow
Species Hibiscus brackenridgei Gray ? Brackenridge's rosemallow