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The hala lei is made of the orange or yellow fruits of the Lauhala or Pandanus tree. The fruit of the hala is a popular lei material throughout Polynesia and other Pacific Islands. All groups of Pacific Islanders make their own style of beautiful Hala lei. It is the mature and firm fruit that provides the material for the lei. The Hala trees are dioecious, either male or female. Female trees of the Lauhala bare the round fibrous fruits that look like pineapples. When ripe, the fruits turn a brilliant orange, yellow or red. There’s a Hawaiian proverb or olelo no’eau on those who wear the red hala. A pala ka hala, ‘ula ka ‘a‘i,  or “When the hala is ripe, necks are red,” Literal translation means, “the time is right for lovemaking.”

Ripe hala fruit

Female fruit of the Lauhala tree which the Hala lei is made from.

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It is said that the male hala is really the one that has the powerful effect on a person. While trying to awake an affection for another, a man or a woman would seek out a fruiting male hala tree.

Fruiting male hala

Fruiting male hala tree. Hinano by antoin tv

The prominent fruit of the male hala is called Hinano. With suggestive appearance aside, the spikes are covered in sweet-scented yellow pollen considered an aphrodisiac by Hawaiians.

Male Flower of Pandanus tectoriusThe hala is a symbol and token of love, the pungent odor of the male blossom (Hinano) and the ripe fruit (hala) is said to arouse love-making among the natives of old. Since hala also means fault, error and to pass, it was thought unlucky to wear a lei.


A legend was told of a Kahuna Lapa’au who had asked Hi’iaka, Peles youngest sister, to help save a patient of his. Hi’iaka, at that time, was wearing a lei hala, replied that she could not help him.  It was too late, the patient had passed away. The fruit of the hala was so often worn in the form of a wreath of Kapo that it came to be looked upon almost as her emblem. To ordinary people, they’d accept this as bad luck.

Male Flower of Pandanus tectorius

photo by flicker

The lei hala worn during the makahiki festival meant that the faults and troubles of the year gone by had passed away.  The new year was approached without trouble and with only good luck.  Many meanings are attached to the lei hala.  “Give a lei hala to wipe away misfortune,” “Give a lei hala to mark the passing, the completion of a venture, the beginning of a new one.”

 Ka Lei, The Leis of Hawaii by Marie A. McDonald

Here are Josh Tatofi ft. Hālau Hi‘iakaināmakalehua with the Lovely Lei Hala.