Ohia Lehua, a Legendary Plant of Hawaii 

Undoubtedly, volcanoes are powerful. The fires and molten lava kill everything they touch, whether explosively or slowly.   

Ohia lehua is native to Hawaii's six biggest islands and can be found up to 8200 feet above sea level. This hardy Myrtle plant is well-adapted to its environment.  

A 100-foot tree can grow in richer soils. The little ovoid leaves are adorned with powder-puff-like blooms, generally red but also orange and yellow.   

This plant, pronounced “o-HEE-ah lay-HOO-ah” and spelled ʻōhiʻa lehua in Hawaiian, has inspired a romantic tale of devoted lovers.  

However, ʻŌhiʻa was already in love with the exquisitely beautiful Lehua, which was unfortunate for Pele. He respectfully rejected Pele's advances, angering her.  

Native Hawaiians have used ohia lehua beyond mythology. They built dwellings, fences, canoe seats and decks, and burnt firewood from the wood.  

Perhaps most essential, ohia lehua colonizes lava flows early, revitalizing dead places. The plant in these photos grows atop a 40-year-old lava flow.  

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