Hīpuʻu aloha; the bond of love. In this print, Native Hawaiian plants most treasured by our ‘ohana: ʻaʻaliʻi, lehua and palapalai, are bound in a beautiful bouquet as a representation of our pilina (relationship). ‘A‘ali‘i symbolizes resilience, lehua symbolizes a beloved friend, relative or sweetheart, and palapalai symbolizes growth, humility, and hula, an important cultural practice in our family. Our pilina makes us stronger than we could ever be alone. Together we blossom, grow and uplift our community.
“He ‘aʻaliʻi kū makani mai au; ‘aʻohe makani nāna e kulaʻi. I am a wind-resisting ʻaʻaliʻi plant; no gale can push over.” Pūkuʻi, M. K. (1983). ʻŌlelo Noʻeau Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu, Hawaii: Bishop Museum Press. ‘Ōlelo Noʻeau #234.
The search for ʻaʻaliʻi, both physically and metaphorically, has been a meaningful part of our family’s pilina. In fact, the need to find blooming ʻaʻaliʻi to make lei initiated our entire relationship. As a result, we adorned our wedding with ʻaʻaliʻi all over, with the help of some wonderful friends.
ʻAʻaliʻi is an indigenous shrub found across the Hawaiian islands from the coast through subalpine areas on Maui and Hawai‘i. There is lots of variability between plants found in different areas but they generally have small green leaves, tiny flowers, and star-shaped seed pods. ‘Aʻaliʻi are mostly dioecious, which means that each plant usually only has male or female flowers. The seed pods, which are most sought after for lei making, are only found on plants with female flowers. The seed pods come in a spectrum of colors including green, yellow, pink, red, and purple. ‘Aʻaliʻi seed pods are either strung individually with a needle and thread in a lei kui or incorporated in bunches in lei haku or lei wili.
As noted in the saying above, ‘aʻaliʻi are also very sturdy plants. Wind tolerant and drought resistant, they are an ideal symbol of resilience among Hawaiians. The hard wood from ‘aʻaliʻi is used to make tools and weapons and the red seed pods can also be used to make dye.