Hawaii’s Hau Trees

looking up in the Hau Tree Lanai restaurant
Looking up at a hau tree. (Photo use by creative commons with credit to Jenny Levine.)

As I was writing about our experience kayaking Kauai’s Wailua River, I mentioned how amazed I was at thickets of hau trees at the rivers edge. In case you aren’t familiar with these fascinating trees, I thought I’d introduce them to you.

Hau trees are native to Hawaii They’re part of the hibiscus family, but they grow much larger than a standard hibiscus plant – reaching up to thirty feet. See this link for more facts about hau trees. The hau trees that we saw along the Wailua had yellow blooms. If you look closely at the photo below, you might see a few dots of yellow blooms.

Kayaking the Wailua River
A continuous thicket of hau trees line the Wailua River.

What interests me the most about hau trees is how the limbs of the tree twist, tangle and tightly intertwine in the most unexpected ways. Each tree looks like a sculptured masterpiece.

Hau Tree Lanai Restaurant
Andy reviews the menu by a hau tree at Hau Tree Lanai restaurant.

When you visit Hawaii, keep an eye open for hau trees on the islands of Kauai, Oahu, and the Big Island. You can find them in moist areas in elevations up to 2,000 feet. There’s popular oceanfront restaurant in Waikiki Beach, Hau Tree Lanai, that’s covered by a romantic canopy of hau trees.

Have you noticed hau trees in Hawaii?

  1. There is a cultivar of the hau tree, widely planted as an ornamental in Hawaii, with large white and red splotches on the leaves. Where did this striking cultivar originate and is it widely planted elsewhere.

    1. There are some restrictions on moving seeds, plants, trees, fruits, vegetables, etc. from Hawaii to the the U.S. mainland. You could maybe do some google searches to see if there are approved sources for Hau tree seeds.

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