Plants Of Hawai‘i


He keiki aloha nā mea kanu.

Plants in Hawai‘i can be separated into two main types: native and non-native. Native plants were introduced to the islands naturally, meaning they arrived in Hawai‘i via three processes: wind, wave and wing. Some seeds were light enough to be picked up and transported by wind currents. Plant parts that were buoyant, or could float, used wave currents that drift to the islands and wash up on shore. Birds carrying the seeds or berries in their system, or carrying seeds among their feathers, transport them as they arrive in the islands by flight.


Explore history of plants of Hawai‘i and and the work of Bishop Museum’s Botany Department by clicking on the images below. 

Plants Of Hawai‘i Blog Post

According to Dr. Tim Gallaher, Botanist for the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Hawaiʻi still has around 1,100 endemic species and 109 indigenous species of plants today. About 131 endemic species only known in Hawaiʻi are now believed to be extinct. Around 27 Polynesian-introduced species also remain in the islands. However, between 6,000 to 12,000 non-native cultivated species can also be found in Hawaiʻi, and about 1,539 species have naturalized in the wild. New species of plants are introduced to Hawaiʻi on a regular basis, and these species unfortunately naturalize readily in our islands, threatening natural habitats and restoration areas. 



Credit: Paul Krushelnycky, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Public domain.

Haleakalā Silversword

The silversword is a distinctive, globe-shaped rosette plant with rigid (swordlike), succulent leaves densely covered by silver hairs. When a plant flowers at the end of its life, it produces a spectacular flowering stalk that can reach up to six feet tall. This plant receives more attention from visitors to Haleakalā National Park than any other plant or animal because of its striking appearance and restricted distribution. 
The Haleakalā silversword was near extinction in the 1920s because of human vandalism and browsing by goats and cattle. The plant has increased under protection and deserves attention as the most dramatic conservation success story of the Hawaiian Islands. It is the most famous member of the endemic Hawaiian silversword alliance, perhaps the premier example of evolutionary adaptive radiation in plants.
Loope, L. L. (2007). Haleakalā Silversword. Retrieved on April 25, 2020 from 
Silversword Coloring Sheet

Silversword Coloring Sheet

After learning a little bit about the silversword above, color one in using this coloring page!

Plant Bingo

Plant Bingo

A fun  activity for families to enjoy on walks around the neighborhood or rides around the island. Learn what different plants look like and whether they are native or non-native! 

Plant Morphology

A Part for Plants

Turn a trip to the garden into a close-up look at Earth’s oxygen-makers: plants and their leaves! Teach or review plant parts and needs, then further explore the part leaves play in photosynthesis and Earth’s carbon cycle. 

Be a Part of Our Story

Celebrate the extraordinary history, culture, and environment of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific with a gift to Bishop Museum. As a partner in the Museum’s work, you can help to sustain vital collections, research, and knowledge, and inspire exploration and discovery with a tax-deductible donation.