The ʻōhiʻa lehua is by far the most bioculturally important tree species in Hawaiʻi. The ʻōhiʻa is truly the ecological keystone of Hawaiʻi’s native forests and watersheds, covering more than one million acres statewide, and providing habitat for countless other native species of plants, birds and insects. The ʻōhiʻa is also the cultural keystone for native Hawaiian people, supporting beliefs and traditional lifeways and practices. The relationship between Pele, the deity of fire and lava who is both a destroyer and creator of land, with her youngest and most cherished sister, Hiʻiakaikapoliopele, a healer and nurturer of new growth, is one of cycles and a system in balance.The ʻōhiʻa emerging from a fresh lava flow is perhaps the most iconic representation of the ʻōhiʻa relationships with Hawaiʻi and her people.
ʻŌhiʻa lehua is critical to maintaining the diversity, structure, and function of Hawaiʻi’s native forests. This ecological foundation provides food and habitat to numerous native plant, animal, and invertebrate species, and also affects our watersheds by capturing water, reducing erosion and sediment runoff into our streams and reefs, and providing countless goods and services to the people of Hawaiʻi.
Pōki'i ka ua, ua i ka lehua...the rain, like a younger brother, remains with the lehua
– Mary Kawena Pukui, ʻŌlelo Noʻeau