Hawaii State Symbols: State Flower, Bird, Fish and More
Welcome to Hawaii! It’s always good to know the symbols of the state you visit. Best to start with the big 5 Hawaii state symbols, the state flower, the state bird, the state nickname, the motto, and the little state fish with the big name. Once you know these you’re on your way to being a real local.
You can already guess other Hawaii symbols like the state sport, surfing, and the state musical instrument, the ukulele (pronounced “oo”-ku-lay’-lee” not “you”-ku-lay’-lee). Take a wild guess at the state dance, you’re right, it’s Hula. State beverage? Not coffee, though Hawaiian coffee is highly prized. It’s awa – a beverage brewed from the roots of the kava plant (Piper methysticum).
You don’t really have to remember the state insect, which is the Kamehameha Butterfly or the state microbe, a wiggly one-celled thing with a long Latin name. But it’s good to know the state bird, flower, fish, and the nicknames. Let us begin.
Hawaii State Flower
The Hawaii state flower is the Yellow Hibiscus, the beautiful bright yellow flower with wide petals. Don’t ask me why it isn’t the well-known Red Hibiscus, but it’s the yellow one, maybe it’s more like bright Hawaii sunshine, who knows? Interesting, the Yellow Hibiscus grows the highest up (400-2,600 ft.) of all Hibiscus in Hawaii.
Hawaii State Bird
The Hawaii state bird is the Nene (nay nay) Goose. It looks like a Canadian Goose because it descended from it. Amazingly, it has been on the Hawaiian islands since the times they first popped up out if the ocean 500,000 years ago.
They are wild birds but they come right up to you and eat out of your hand.
Not long ago you could drive right near the edge of the volcano, Halemaumau Crater on the Big Island. In the volcano parking lot, near the edge of he crater, there was a flock of Nene Geese that waddled around taking hand-outs of bread and chips from the visitors.
They’re so tame they must know they are protected. The punishment for harming a Nene is $50,000 and a year in jail. Better be nice to the Nene Goose.
An interesting bit of bird trivia, Peacocks are wild all over Hawaii and so are green parrots.
Hawaii State Nickname
So, the nickname of the state of Hawaii everyone has to know. Hawaii is the Aloha State. Aloha means love, hello, goodbye, and so much more… what a word. You’ll see a rainbow on the license plates along with “The Aloha State”. Could it be anything else?
Hawaii State Motto
The state motto is “The life of the land is preserved in righteousness”. In Hawaiian it’s “Ua mau ke ea o ka aina I ka pono”. This phrase is written in Hawaiian on everything official, from work trucks to the governor’s office.
There is a great story of how the phrase began. This is the short version.
It was uttered by King Kamehameha III in a speech in 1843. In February of that year an overly bold British Captain, George Paulet sailed into Honolulu and decided to take over the kingdom. He went ashore, pushed out the king and set himself up as ruler of Hawaii. His obnoxious rule lasted for five months.
In July, five months later, noble English Captain Richard Thomas sailed in, strutted into the capitol and told Paulet to leave. It wasn’t hard since Captain Thomas was his commanding officer. In a speech praising the great rescuer, the king said that the kingdom is preserved in “Pono”or righteousness, the goodness of Captain Richard Thomas.
Hawaii is one interesting place.
Hawaii Sate Fish
The Hawaii state fish is also is also a test. If you can pronounce it’s 21 letter tongue-twisting name you are an unofficial local person and will gain great respect. Prepare thyself, the Hawaiian name of the state fish is Humuhumu nukunuku apua’a.
Here’s how you say it, humu’-humu’-nooku’-nooku’-ah’-poo’-ah-ah. Start practicing now, in a week you’ll be able to say it at all the parties.
Now you know the 5 big Hawaii State Symbols – the Yellow Hibiscus, the Nene Goose, the Aloha State, the motto about the life of the land preserved in righteousness. You even know the state fish, and soon you will be able to pronounce it. But you know there is a state symbol for everything from songs to gemstones. Here are some.
Hawaii State Gemstone
The state gemstone is black coral, very rare. It’s an undersea animal that looks like a bush and feels like a rock. A living stone. It looks like a big black fern.
The overall state mammal is the Monk Seal, you see them lounging on the beach like tourists. They’re cute as a puppy but don’t go near them they are protected and have been known to bite. The state sea mammal is the Humpback Whale, the star of the ocean.
The state land mammal is the Hawaiian Hoary Bat. Go figure, a bat. Maybe they eat mosquitos, there’s a reason to be the land mammal right there.
The state plant is Kalo or taro, they make it into poi. You remember poi, the brown gooey stuff they eat at luaus. The state tree is the Kukui Nut Tree. The nut from the tree can be burned like a candle and string them together they make a nice lei. They are the nut leis you always see.
Time to go out singing the state song, “Hawai’i Pono’i” (Hawaii-po’-no-ee). A beautiful song written by King Kalakaua, with music by his head bandmaster Henri Berger, praising King Kamehameha, founding father of the islands.
The song was, and still is, the Hawaiian National Anthem. It’s sung at sporting events in Hawaii. They sing the Star Spangled Banner and afterwards sing Hawai’i Pono’i. When you hear Hawaiians and everyone sing the lilting sweet song, it carries you back to the old days of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Hawaiians have never left.
Official Colors and Flowers of Hawaiian Islands
Dennis Gregory is a long-time writer, he lives in Kona, Hawaii. In 1970 he founded the first literary magazine at the University of Hawaii, Hilo. Since then he has published novels, poetry books and writes a column for the local paper in Kona. He is also an artist and musician.
18 thoughts on “Hawaii State Symbols: State Flower, Bird, Fish and More”
Denny: Since I saw you I have read 3 historical novels about Hawai’i: The Last Aloha (mainly about Queen Lili), Honolulu (mainly about a Korean immigrant’s struggles in the mid 1800’s up until Pearl Harbor–lovely descriptions of Old Honolulu), and Moloka’i (about the impact of Ma’i Pake upon a Hawaiian girl). I’m fascinated. If you know some, please share. I miss you and Jaquie.
Mr. Gregory: I noticed two small mistakes… I think you meant petal when you wrote pedal for the hibiscus and isn’t it Kuku’i instead of Kukio? I not too sure…
Thank you Jerry! Good eye you have!
Ohh, You thought I was talking about the flower. Nah nah,
I was talking about a new bicycle, it is pink and has yellow petals.
The bike is pink with yellow pedals, that is.
Denny. thoroughly enjoyed your blog. . . . which island are you on? Hubby and I were in Hilo (Big Island) 8 days for the Merrie Monarch Festival. Would have called if I had a clue where to find you.
Your Hula Lady from THS.
Dear Sharon, thank you. Really appreciate that you liked it. If you go back to the blog and type in Hawaii, and Waimea and Whales. You’ll see some more.
We did have fun at the reunion. Merry Monarch great show. We live in Kona, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll talk. Aloha, Denny
Great selection State of Hawaii Symbols . It would be a great addition if you could add the Hawaiian Flag.
It’s really a cool and helpful information. Please keep up the good work! Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for reading my story, I’m glad you liked it.
the Hawaii state flower is not the one you have pictured. you have a common non native Asian hybrid pictured. the real state flower is a hardy hibiscus that lives in dry areas, not tropical. it has leaves like grape. its called Mao hau hele… the scientific name is Hibiscus brackenridgei… its a critically endangered species… aloha
ps the red one youre thinking of is also nonnative and an Asian species. The native endemic red hibiscus is not often seen in Hawaii, its very small and 2 of the 3 are endangered as well .. there are 3 Hibiscus kokio, Hibiscus clayi, and Hibiscus saintjohnianus….
you also noted the Hawaiian Islands as being 500,000 yrs old. they are really 80,0000,000 yrs old… they move about 3 inches per yea via tectonic plate action… the oldest Hawaiian islands are near Alaska, and now underwater. The oldest Hawaiian Islands still above water is Kure, its 33,000,000 yrs old, and the largest Atoll in the World. of the main islands, Kauai is about 4,500,000 yrs old, and the Big Island is about 800,000 yrs old. the Nene goose is a recent arrival, it has only been here evolving for about 50,000 yrs. We used to have about 6-8 different geese which evolved via adaptive radiation, all are extinct except the nene which is the smallest of the historically known types. aloha
Thank you, except your 80,0000,000 number is a little weird.