Maile is an indigenous Hawaiian shrub, which often twines like a vine with shiny, fragrant leaves. The new growth of maile is intertwined to create long, twisting lei that can symbolize the pilina (relationship) between two partners, intertwining their individual lives to become one. Maile is also sacred to the goddess of hula, Laka. There are many varieties of maile named for their distinct appearances, including maile lau liʻi, (small-leaved maile) maile lau nui (large-leaved maile), maile haʻi wale (brittle maile), maile kaluhea (sweet maile), and maile pakaha (blunt-leaved maile).
Maile lau nui from Hawai‘i, lau li‘i from O‘ahu, and lau li‘ili‘i Kaua‘i are particularly sought after for lei. Lei maile are most desirable, used selectively for special occasions. We included a maile print in our Pilina Collection because it was one of the lei used at our own wedding.
While historically found throughout the main Hawaiian islands in dry, mesic, and wet forests, today maile is a bit harder to find due to habitat destruction and overharvesting. For that reason, much of the “maile” sold in Hawai‘i today is imported from the Cook Islands or Tonga. Some commercial farms in Hawai‘i are working to increase the local supply of Hawaiian maile. Maile can also be used medicinally and its light scent makes a great air freshener.
To learn more about maile, visit: http://nativeplants.hawaii.edu/plant/view/Alyxia_stellata/.
This print was created in collaboration with Emily of Kaulumaika. Check out all of her work here: https://kaulumaika.com.