Ohi’A Lehua ( Metrosideros Polymorpha)

Plant: Table of Contents

Ohi’A Lehua (Metrosideros Polymorpha): The Beloved Hawaiian Plant


Ohi’a Lehua, scientifically known as Metrosideros Polymorpha, is a highly revered and endemic plant in the Hawaiian Islands. This plant holds significant cultural, ecological, and medicinal value within Hawaiian folklore and traditional practices. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the unique characteristics, cultural significance, and the scientific aspects of the Ohi’a Lehua. We will delve into its habitat, uses, conservation, as well as propagation techniques and landscape design. As a plant scientist, I am excited to share my expertise and insights into this extraordinary plant and its importance in the Hawaiian ecosystem and culture.

What is Ohi’A Lehua (Metrosideros Polymorpha)?

Ohi’a Lehua, or the Metrosideros Polymorpha, is a species of flowering evergreen tree in the myrtle family, Myrtaceae. It is native to the Hawaiian Islands, where it can be found at various elevations, ranging from sea level to high mountain regions. This species is known for its vibrant red flowers, which are a prominent feature of the plant and hold great cultural significance in Hawaiian mythology and tradition.

Ohi’a Lehua Facts

  1. The scientific name of Ohi’a Lehua is Metrosideros Polymorpha.
  2. It is an endemic species in the Hawaiian Islands.
  3. Ohi’a Lehua is recognized for its vibrant red flowers and evergreen foliage.
  4. The plant is deeply intertwined with Hawaiian folklore and cultural practices.

Key Takeaways – Ohi’A Lehua (Metrosideros Polymorpha)

Before delving into the specific aspects of caring for the Ohi’a Lehua, let’s first explore some key takeaways about this remarkable plant.


The Ohi’a Lehua holds immense cultural significance in Hawaiian tradition, symbolizing love, strength, and the unique bond between the volcanic goddess Pele and the warrior Ohi’a. The red flowers are believed to represent the tears of the broken-hearted princess Lehua after Ohi’a was transformed into a tree, forming the Ohi’a Lehua tree.


Owing to its cultural significance, Ohi’a Lehua has been traditionally used in various ceremonies, rituals, and as a material for making leis. Additionally, the plant has medicinal properties and is valued for its role in Hawaiian traditional medicine.


Ohi’a Lehua thrives in moist conditions, and adequate watering is crucial, particularly during dry periods or when grown in containers.


The plant prefers full sunlight but can tolerate partial shade, especially in hotter climates or at lower elevations.


When cultivated in suitable soil, Ohi’a Lehua does not require extensive fertilization. However, a balanced fertilizer application in spring can aid in healthy growth and flowering.


The plant thrives in well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Consult the local agricultural extension office to determine the ideal soil conditions for Ohi’a Lehua in your specific region.


Regular pruning is essential to maintain the desired shape and size of the Ohi’a Lehua tree. It can also help promote airflow and reduce the risk of diseases.


Ohi’a Lehua can be propagated through seeds, cuttings, or air layering. Each method has its own requirements and advantages.

Container Popularity

The Ohi’a Lehua tree is well-suited for container gardening, making it an attractive option for those with limited outdoor space or for ornamental purposes on patios and balconies.

Common Diseases

Various diseases, such as Rapid Ohia Death (ROD), can affect Ohi’a Lehua. Understanding these diseases and taking preventive measures is crucial for the plant’s well-being.

Common Pests

Pests such as the Metrosideros Polymorpha, the Myoporum Thrips, and the Lantana Camara (commonly known as the Lantana) can pose a threat to the Ohi’a Lehua. Implementing pest management strategies is essential for maintaining plant health.

Botanist’s Tips

Lastly, we will explore essential tips and best practices to ensure the successful cultivation and care of Ohi’a Lehua, thereby contributing to its preservation and propagation.

Ohi’a Lehua (Metrosideros Polymorpha) in Detail

Now that we’ve gained a broad overview of Ohi’a Lehua, let’s delve deeper into each of the key takeaways to understand the plant’s needs, characteristics, and its role in Hawaiian culture and conservation.


The Ohi’a Lehua tree, with its vibrant red flowers, is deeply entwined with Hawaiian culture and mythology. It is revered as a symbol of love, strength, and resilience, with its origins rooted in a tragic love story from Hawaiian folklore. According to legend, the volcano goddess Pele fell in love with a young warrior named Ohi’a. However, Ohi’a was already devoted to the beautiful Lehua. When he rejected Pele’s advances, she transformed him into a tree. Distraught by this transformation, Lehua was transformed into a flower on the same tree so that the two lovers could be together forever. Thus, the Ohi’a Lehua tree symbolizes the eternal bond between the two lovers and remains an enduring emblem of true love.

Traditionally, the flowers of the Ohi’a Lehua tree are used to make leis, which hold significant cultural and symbolic value in Hawaiian traditions. These leis are often worn on special occasions and ceremonies, signifying love, respect, and honor. The use of Ohi’a Lehua in such ceremonies upholds its cultural significance and ensures the plant’s enduring presence in various aspects of Hawaiian life.


The vibrant red flowers of the Ohi’a Lehua tree symbolize the tears shed by Princess Lehua after being separated from her beloved Ohi’a. Moreover, the plant embodies steadfastness and resilience, reflecting the enduring spirit of the Hawaiian people.


Ohi’a Lehua has been used for various practical and cultural purposes throughout Hawaiian history. Apart from being used in leis, the wood of the Ohi’a Lehua tree has been utilized in the construction of canoes, weapons, and traditional Hawaiian structures. The flowers and leaves of the plant have also been employed in the making of traditional dyes.

Medicinal Properties

In addition to its cultural significance, Ohi’a Lehua possesses medicinal properties. In traditional Hawaiian medicine, the plant has been used to treat ailments such as coughs, sore throats, and fever. The leaves are brewed to make a medicinal tea, and the bark has been used to address various health issues. The plant’s role in traditional medicine reflects the deep connection between nature and the well-being of the Hawaiian people.


Adequate water is crucial for the healthy growth of Ohi’a Lehua. In its natural habitat, the tree is often found in moist environments, and replicating these conditions is essential for successful cultivation. When grown in home gardens or containers, regular watering, particularly during dry periods, is necessary to maintain optimal soil moisture levels. While the plant requires consistent moisture, it is also important to ensure proper drainage to prevent waterlogged soil, which can lead to root rot and other issues.


Ohi’a Lehua thrives in full sunlight and benefits from exposure to direct sunlight for a significant portion of the day. However, it can tolerate some degree of shade, especially in hotter regions or at lower elevations where protection from intense afternoon sun might be necessary. Providing the plant with the right amount of sunlight is essential for healthy growth and abundant flowering.


Ohi’a Lehua generally thrives in nutrient-rich soil and does not require heavy fertilization when cultivated in suitable conditions. However, a balanced, slow-release fertilizer applied in spring can support the plant’s growth and promote prolific flowering. The use of a fertilizer specifically formulated for flowering plants with a balanced NPK ratio can provide the essential nutrients for healthy development.


The Ohi’a Lehua tree prefers well-drained, slightly acidic soil. This type of soil closely mirrors the conditions found in its native habitat in the Hawaiian Islands. Soil that retains moisture while allowing excess water to drain away helps maintain the ideal balance for the plant’s root system. As the soil pH plays a critical role in the plant’s nutrient uptake, conducting a soil test to ascertain the current pH level and structure of the soil is advisable. Amendments such as organic matter or peat moss can be used to adjust the soil’s pH and improve its texture as needed.


Regular pruning is vital for maintaining the health and form of the Ohi’a Lehua tree. Pruning not only helps to manage the plant’s size and shape but also facilitates improved air circulation throughout the canopy, reducing the risk of diseases and promoting overall plant vigor. Pruning is generally carried out during the tree’s dormant season to minimize stress on the plant. Remove dead or damaged branches, as well as any growth that may be impeding the tree’s natural structure. Additionally, shaping the tree to achieve a desired form can be achieved through selective pruning.


Ohi’a Lehua can be propagated by various methods, including seeds, cuttings, and air layering. Each propagation method offers its own advantages and challenges, and the choice of technique often depends on factors such as the availability of plant material and the goals of the propagation effort.


Propagation from seeds is one of the common methods used to establish new Ohi’a Lehua trees. The seeds can be carefully collected from the plant’s fruits and subsequently sown in a suitable growing medium. Their growth can be slow initially, and they generally require time and nurturing before developing into mature trees.


Taking cuttings from established, healthy Ohi’a Lehua trees offers a faster propagation method compared to seeding. Selecting healthy, non-flowering branches for cuttings and ensuring proper care and environmental conditions can lead to successful propagation and the development of new trees.

Air Layering

Air layering is another effective method for propagating Ohi’a Lehua. This technique involves creating a small root system on a living branch of the tree, which can then be severed and planted to establish a new tree. While it is a relatively slower process, air layering can yield well-rooted, healthy plants suitable for transplanting.

Container Popularity

The Ohi’a Lehua tree is well-suited for container gardening due to its ornamental value and moderate size. As a landscaping feature, the plant adds a touch of natural beauty to patios, balconies, and indoor spaces. Container gardening allows enthusiasts to enjoy the plant’s vibrant flowers and evergreen foliage in spaces where in-ground planting may not be feasible.

Common Diseases

Unfortunately, Ohi’a Lehua is susceptible to various diseases, posing a threat to the health and survival of the plant. One of the most alarming diseases affecting the Ohi’a Lehua tree in Hawaii is Rapid Ohia Death (ROD), caused by a fungal pathogen. This disease has devastating effects on the native Ohia forests, leading to widespread mortality of the trees. To address this issue, conservation efforts and active measures have been implemented to mitigate the spread of ROD and to support the survival of the Ohi’a Lehua and its natural habitat.

Disease Diagnosis

Diagnosing diseases in Ohi’a Lehua requires a thorough understanding of the symptoms and signs associated with various pathogens and other factors that can impact the plant’s health. Timely identification and swift response to diseases and infections are essential for implementing effective disease management strategies and safeguarding the species.

Common Pests

In addition to diseases, Ohi’a Lehua is susceptible to various pests that can compromise the health and vitality of the plant. The Metrosideros Polymorpha, the Myoporum Thrips, and the Lantana Camara are among the pests known to affect the Ohi’a Lehua tree. Implementing proactive pest management and control measures is essential for preventing pest infestations and ensuring the well-being of the plant.

Pest Management Strategies

Integrated pest management (IPM) techniques can be employed to address pest issues while minimizing the environmental impact. This approach involves a comprehensive strategy that includes cultural, biological, and chemical control methods tailored to the specific pest pressures and the needs of the Ohi’a Lehua tree. By implementing preventive measures and proactive monitoring, the negative impact of pests can be mitigated, safeguarding the health of the plant.

Botanist’s Tips

Now, let’s explore some valuable tips and best practices for the successful cultivation and care of Ohi’a Lehua, drawing upon scientific insights and practical experience in plant sciences.

Tip 1: Climate Adaptation

Understanding the specific climate requirements of Ohi’a Lehua is essential for successful cultivation. Different subspecies and varieties may have distinct preferences for temperature, humidity, and other climatic factors. By selecting plants that are well-adapted to the local climate or by creating suitable microclimates, the plant can thrive and display its full beauty.

Tip 2: Soil Requirements

Comprehending the soil requirements and ensuring the suitability of the planting site are crucial for the healthy growth of Ohi’a Lehua. The soil should offer good drainage while retaining sufficient moisture, providing the plant with an optimal environment for root development and nutrient uptake.

Tip 3: Pruning Techniques

Employing proper pruning techniques at the right time of year can support the plant’s overall health and aesthetic appeal. Regular maintenance pruning helps to remove dead or diseased branches, shaping the tree, and promoting robust growth.

Tip 4: Wildlife Habitat

The Ohi’a Lehua tree serves as an important habitat for various native species of birds, insects, and other wildlife in its natural environment. Its presence in the landscape contributes to biodiversity and, in turn, supports the broader ecosystem’s health and resilience.

Tip 5: Conservation Initiatives

Participating in conservation efforts aimed at preserving and protecting the Ohi’a Lehua and its natural habitat is crucial for ensuring the species’ long-term survival. By supporting conservation initiatives, individuals can contribute to the preservation of this culturally significant and ecologically valuable plant.

Tip 6: Landscape Design

Incorporating Ohi’a Lehua into landscape designs can enhance the aesthetic appeal of the environment. Whether used as a focal point or as part of a broader landscape theme, the plant adds a touch of natural beauty and cultural significance to outdoor spaces.

Fun Facts

Now, let’s uncover some fascinating and lesser-known facts about Ohi’a Lehua that showcase the plant’s unique characteristics and its rich cultural significance.

  1. Ohi’a Lehua is known to be a primary colonizer of lava flows, playing a critical role in the ecological succession of Hawaiian landscapes.
  2. The flowers of Ohi’a Lehua come in various shades, including crimson, orange, and yellow, contributing to the plant’s visual appeal.
  3. The evergreen foliage of the Ohi’a Lehua tree provides year-round beauty, making it a cherished sight across Hawaiian landscapes.
  4. The longevity of Ohi’a Lehua trees, some of which are estimated to be hundreds of years old, underscores their endurance and resilience.

Links to External Resources

For further exploration and in-depth understanding of Ohi’a Lehua and related topics, consider the following rich resources:

  1. National Tropical Botanical Garden
  2. Hawaii Native Plant Propagation Database
  3. Hawaiian Ethnobotany Online Database
  4. Rapid Ohia Death (ROD) Information
  5. Plant Conservation and Biodiversity in Hawaii


The Ohi’a Lehua (Metrosideros Polymorpha) stands as a symbol of resilience, cultural significance, and ecological importance in the Hawaiian Islands. Its vibrant red flowers and rich folklore make it a beloved and revered plant, deeply ingrained in the hearts and traditions of the Hawaiian people. As a plant scientist, I hope this comprehensive guide has shed light on the manifold aspects of the Ohi’a Lehua, from its cultural symbolism to its ecological role and practical horticultural considerations. Through conservation, proper care, and the preservation of its natural habitat, the Ohi’a Lehua can continue to thrive and inspire generations to come, serving as a living tribute to the enduring spirit of the Hawaiian Islands.

By highlighting its significance and promoting measures to ensure its continued existence, we can honor the legacy of the Ohi’a Lehua as a symbol of love, strength, and the enduring beauty of the Hawaiian landscape.

Remember, the Ohi’a Lehua tree is not just a plant; it is a living testament to the timeless bond between nature, culture, and tradition.

Video: Ohi’a Lehua Tree in the Hawaiian Landscape

Picture of Peter Taylors

Peter Taylors

Expert botanist who loves plants. His expertise spans taxonomy, plant ecology, and ethnobotany. An advocate for plant conservation, he mentors and educates future botanists, leaving a lasting impact on the field.