“Pōkiʻi ka ua, ua i ka lehua. The rain, like a younger brother, remains with the lehua.”
Said of the rain that clings to the forest where ʻōhiʻa trees grow. – ʻŌlelo Noʻeau 2685
Ōhiʻa lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha), most numerous of our lāʻau kamaʻāina, are noted gatherers of fogs, mists, and rains. Moisture captured in tree canopies trickles down to the ground, and helps replenish our aquifers.
Making their way from Tasmania, wafted on winds as they island-hopped over eons, tiny ʻōhiʻa seeds arrived on our shores and were able to colonize a multiplicity of habitats. Diverse genetics, exhibited in lehua ranging from blood red to the palest of yellows, liko (leaf shoots) in a bewildering array of forms and color, trees tall and thin, short and spreading, each unique and different as we are.
ʻŌhiʻa are used for framing hale and for firewood, carved kiʻi (fetchers of mana) represent many akua, and lei lehua and liko honor deities during hula.
Lehua are clusters of individual pua. Tight buds enclosed by fuzzy sepals and colored petals slowly unfurl. Each flower has a sturdy central kukuna (female pistil), surrounded by pollen-tipped male pōuleule (stamens).