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Hawaiian Flower Tattoos

Hawaiian flower tattoos can express ones respect and esteem for Hawaiian culture or may simply be considered an exotic and beautiful design, regardless they come in a wide range of forms and can have a variety of symbolic meanings. Not all of which were feminine! Due to tourism in the 19th and 20th centuries the most popular examples of the Hawaiians use of the tropical flower is the concept of a lei, a wreath of flowers that is draped around the neck upon ones arriving or leaving as a symbol of affection. Another Hawaiian use of tropical flowers that has been popularized is the hibiscus flower behind the ear of a women, this symbolizes that she is ready to find a partner for marriage. The Hawaiians were also great practitioners of the art of tattooing and used tropical flowers in their designs. Hawaiian flowers were traditionally tattooed in a highly stylized manner and are a common theme in traditional Hawaiian tattoo designs. Since ancient times the Hawaiians tattooed themselves with a variety of geometric, curling and natural designs, and the tropical flower may be one of the most enduring and popular of their subjects.

hawaiian flower tattoo
Hawaiian Flower Tattoo with traditional elements and Hawaiian Islands.
hawaiian flower tattoos
An attractive Hawaiian Flower Tattoo
(Tattoo art of the above tattoos was done by Laura Naylor)

tropical flower tattoo
Modern tropical flower tattoo featuring rich color.

Hawaiian culture, like many tribal societies, identified themselves much more closely with nature than their modern counterparts. Their navigators were so in touch with the waves and currents that they could detect an island from hundreds of miles away. Their connection with the land was no different and they became well acquainted and connected with the flora of the Hawaiian Islands. A staggering array of tropical flowers can be found on the Hawaiian Islands. The islands isolation, tropical climate, wide ranging elevation (ecosystems) and fertile volcanic soils have created one of the greatest variety and abundance of tropical flowers of any location in the world. When you consider the wide variety of flowers and the different styles of tattoo art there are endless possibilities to ensure that each Hawaiian flower tattoo is unique and meaningful. (or just exotic and beautiful!)


Hawaiian Flower Tattoos Meaning

Hibiscus Flower Tattoos
The hibiscus is the most popular Hawaiian flower tattoo and one of its family members, is the yellow ma’o hau hele hisbiscus, is the state flower. Hibiscus flowers come in a variety of colors consisting of pink, white, red, yellow, green, lavender, blue, purple and orange. A hibiscus can often be seen perched behind the ear of Hawaiian women, symbolizing they are available for marriage. A hibiscus flower tattoo is more commonly seen as meaning “delicate beauty” or “consumed by love”. The wide range of colors of the hibiscus makes it ideal for colorful, modern styled Hawaiian tattoos, while its interesting form lends itself well to more traditional, geometric tattoo designs.

Anthurium Flower Tattoo
The anthurium is an excellent choice for a Hawaiian flower tattoos. These bright red flowers often have a heart shape. They are the most popular flower shipped from Hawaii and they are a symbol of hospitality, friendship and kindness.

Orchid Flower Tattoo

Orchid tattoos can represent magnificence, luxury, strength, love, and beauty. Other orchids can mean free spirited, unique or mysterious. The number of meanings, wide variety of interesting forms and beautiful blossoms makes the orchid an excellent choice for a customized tattoo.

One popular orchid type in Hawaii, the Dendrobium Orchid, has butterfly shaped blossoms and lends itself nicely to integrated tattoo designs and has the added meaning of free, free spirited or independent beauty. Another popular orchid tattoo, and a personal favorite, is the ghost orchid. Ghost orchids are stunningly beautiful flowers and rather peculiar, their form reminds me of a very strange surreal figure. This orchid is also unusual in due to having a greatly reduced stem , the leaves have been reduced to green scales and cord-like, green roots with a distinctive track mark design on them. Their roots blend so well with the trees they grow on that the pale flower seems to be floating in midair, hence its name "Ghost Orchid". They are an endanger species, rarely seen in the wild and difficult to keep out of its environment, giving ghost orchid tattoos the symbolic meaning of something like “rare beauty” or “mysterious”

The Bird of Paradise Flower Tattoos
This dramatic, colorful flower is known for resembling a bird in flight. If you like very colorful tattoos then the Birds of Paradise flower could be the perfect Hawaiian flower tattoo for you. They are elegant and can add vigor to the human body with their vivid splashes of color and organic but familiar forms. This tropical flower represents “joyfulness” and “paradise”. “Fun loving” and “elegant” are appropriate meanings as well.

The above tropical flower types are by no means an exhausted list of possible species for a Hawaiian flower tattoos. In fact there are many, many more possibilities. You could select the lehua or you can even get a tattoo that represents a particular Hawaiian island; each island has an official flower of its own.

orchid tattoo
The mysterious ghost orchid.
Flowers by Hawaiian Island

The official flower of the big island is the Red Lehua Ohia, which, according to legend is sacred to Pele, the volcano goddess. The flower of Kauai is Mokihana, or the Green Berry. The official flower of Lanai is the Kaunaoa, or the Yellow and Orange Air Plant. In Maui the official flower is the Lokelani, or the Pink Cottage Rose. The flower of Molokai is the White Kukui Blossom. Oahu's flower is the Ilima. The flower of Kahoolawe is the Hinahina, or Beach Heliotrope. For Niihau the official flower of this island is the Pupu Shell.


Hawaiian Flower Tattoo Designs

Tropical flower tattoos are sometimes combined with traditional tribal bands and are found on both men and women. Traditional tribal Hawaiian tattoos are currently making a comeback and often involve both modern and traditional styles. Modern and traditional tattoo design styles are even being merged in a single tattoo!

Traditional Hawaiian tattoo styles are very geometric, featuring stylized animals, flowers and geometric designs. Large dramatic swirls (such as on the shoulders) can be used to great effect, giving an energetic tribal feel of ferocity or elegance. Traditional tattoos also feature intricate triangle patterns that often seem to play between the worlds of organic and geometric (think of an M.C. Escher drawing or print). Tattoos of the ancient Hawaiian Islands tended to be bolder and blacker than those found on the other Polynesian islands. There’s a lot more information about traditional Hawaiian tattoos out there, the book Hawaiian Tattoos is an excellent resource.

Modern Hawaiian tattoos aren’t as confined, additional elements like color and a great variety of artistic styles can be applied. Color in its self can be very beautiful and striking in a tattoo, even adding to the boldness that characterized traditional tribal Hawaiian tattoo designs. Modern artistic styles offer yet another level of customization and personalization. Realistically rendered flowers are often used, although some opt for a more playful cartoon like design. A laughing Tiki God could accompany a tropical flower for example. There is a just as wide of a variety of artist styles as there are Hawaiian flowers! A tattoo could be sketch like, have a flat Asian style (anime) or have the feel of a water color painting to name a few.

Hawaiian arm and leg tattoos were very popular for a long time, and Hawaiian band tattoos are currently popular. A tropical flower may be seen on its own, but they are just as often seen as part of an integrated design or pattern. Flowers are frequently combined with vines, butterflies, hummingbirds and ladybugs. Flower tattoos can be beautiful, exotic and rather feminine looking, or alternatively be the subject of a fierce, savage tribal warrior’s skin art. Flower tattoo designs are popular with men and women, although men are more likely to combine them with skulls, crosses,
tiki gods, daggers and sharks.

Hawaiian Flower tattoos also have considerable variety regarding their overall look. They can be small, inconspicuous and delicate or big, bright and bold. The can be whimsical, serious or eclectic. A single flower or a chain of flower can be used. All of these options would have made the ancient Hawaiians proud, it was their belief that a tattoo should both express meaning to the outside world as well as have a deep personal meaning. However, there is certainly still room for those that just want an exceptional, beautiful or exotic design when it comes to Hawaiian flower tattoos.

Related Pages
Tribal Hawaiian Tattoos
Traditional Tribal Hawaiian

Hawaiian Tattoos
Tradiational and Modern

This is just the surface of the amazing information about Hawaiian tattoos, for more information we recommend reading Tribal Tattoo Designs, an excellent resource. It's link can be found on the left, for the best price online.


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