Beach Naupaka (Scaevola sericea)
Location: Kohala Coast, Big Island, Hawaii
One of the most common coastal shrubs in Hawaii is the Beach Naupaka (Scaevola sericea) -- called 'naupaka kahakai' in the Hawaiian language. This bushy shrub with the glossy green leaves grows naturally above the tide line at beaches all over the islands. It is salt-tolerant and easy to cultivate, so it also is used as a landscaping hedge, especially at elevations near sea level.
Naupaka kahakai, pictured here, is the beach naupaka. Naupaka kuahiwi (Scaevola chamissoniana) is a closely related shrub that grows in the mountains. Both have delicate white blossoms that look like half-flowers.
A Hawaiian legend tells us why there are two kinds of Naupaka, and why the flowers look like half-flowers. There are several versions of the legend, and the details vary, but the gist is this: Two young lovers were forbidden to be together. One of the pair had to live in the mountains and the other had to live near the ocean. The girl picked a white flower and cut it in two, giving half to her lover and keeping the other half for herself. Eventually the gods turned each of the lovers into a shrub that bore a half-flower. One of those shrubs was made to grow in the mountains, and the other at the beach.