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Flowers of Tahiti - French Polynesia's Fragrant Tropical Blossoms

As Vital to Tahiti's Allure As the Sand and Sea

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The moment you arrive in Tahiti, the islands' flowers welcome you: a fragrant tiare blossom handed to you as you deplane and then a heavenly lei of frangipani or orchids placed around your shoulders before you are transported to your hotel.

Whether you visit Tahiti, Moorea or Bora Bora for a wedding, honeymoon or vacation, the colorful and abundant flora makes a lasting impression. You'll wake up to flowers on your breakfast tray, relax in a spa tub rimmed with soothing orchids, and fall asleep on a bed strewn with a vibrant rainbow of hibiscus and ginger. Here are the blossoms you are likely to encounter:

1. Tahitian Gardenia

Tahiti tiare blossoms in hair
Courtesy of Tahiti Tourisme

Known locally as the tiare Tahiti, these small, white, seven-petal blossoms are everywhere and have become the de facto symbol of Tahiti. They have a subtle but sublime fragrance and are most often worm behind the ear or in a flower crown or lei.

2. Frangipani

Frangipani and hibiscus blossoms
Donna Heiderstadt

Either yellow and white or pinkish orange, these waxy blossoms, also known as plumeria, seem to bloom on small trees everywhere in the islands and have a rich, sweet fragrance.

3. Hibiscus

Tahitian bed of hibiscus flowers
Donna Heiderstadt

Known in Tahitian as "purau," these fluttery and vibrant blossoms come in every color imaginable, from brilliant yellow to sultry red to soothing pink, and you'll often find them arranged in artful compositions on your hotel bed upon check-in.

4. Heliconia

Tahitian Heliconia
Courtesy of Tahiti Tourisme

Among the most dramatic of Tahiti's flora, heliconia blossoms come in a number of varieties, including one that resembles a large red lobster claw at the end of a long green stalk and another that is a dangling vine holding up to a dozen red pod-shaped flowers.

5. Orchids

Like most tropical destinations, the islands of Tahiti are home to a variety of orchids, the most famous of which is the vanilla orchid, which when hand pollinated, produces the prized vanilla pods sought the world over.

6. Ginger

Tahitian ginger
Donna Heiderstadt

Tahiti is home to several varieties, all beautiful. These include red torch ginger, which features sturdy red blossoms with many layers of petals and large cushion-like center, and pink ginger with its symmetrical cone shape.

7. Jasmine

Tahiti flower crowns and leis
Donna Heiderstadt

These small, sweet and extremely fragrant white blossoms, known in Tahiti as pitate, are frequently used in soaps, perfumes and in floral crowns and leis.

8. Tiare Apetahi

Tahiti Tiare Apetahi
Courtesy of Tahiti Tourisme

Found only one place in the world, on a mountain peak on the sacred island of Raiatea, legend has it that these five-petal flowers, which close each night and re-open at daybreak with a slight cracking sound, represent the five fingers of a Tahitian girl who fell in love with the son of a king and died of a broken heart (hence the cracking sound) since she could not marry him.

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