Pua Kenikeni: By Any Other Name…

March 7, 2017, 1:00 PM HST (Updated March 31, 2017, 9:33 AM) · 3 Comments


    Fagraea berteriana, pua kenikeni, perfume flower tree, ten cent flower, pua tonga or pualulu… as locals would say, “same smell different name!”

    The pua kenikeni is one of the most fragrant blooms anywhere.

    Indigenous to Northern Australia and the Caroline Islands, the pua kenikeni can be found growing from near sea level to about the 3500 feet in elevation.

    Widely spread throughout the Pacific, it was introduced to Hawai‘i in modern times as an ornamental addition to the garden.

    It obtained the nickname “perfume flower tree” because its fragrance highly sought to produce scented coconut oils and perfumes.

    Once introduced to Hawai‘i, it quickly gained popularity among the locals for use in making lei.

    It was commonly known as the “ten cent flower” here in Hawai‘i because that was all it cost to buy a lei made of these beautiful long-tubed blossoms. That, however, is no longer the case,  with average lei costing $9 or more.


    Trumpet-shaped blossoms start out white and change to yellow or pale orange as it ages. Flowering may appear at any time of year—sometimes continuously.

    While it is able to be grown from seed, it often takes several years to reach 3 feet in height.

    Rooted cuttings or air layers are the preferred growing methods.

    Trees are reported to grow in excess of 40 feet in some areas. However, it is better to trim it and keep it low if you intend to pick its blossoms.

    Its intoxicating, unforgettable fragrance has made many everlasting impressions and has also led to many love songs that praise this flower.

    The lyrics of this song speak of the enchantment of the fragrant flower known by many different names.

    Pua Kenikeni: Recorded by Tony Conjugacion

    Na ka pua kenikeni ko‘u ho‘ohihi
    Ke ‘ala ho‘oheno i ku‘u poli

    Onaona i ka ihu ke honi aku
    A ke këhau a‘e hali mai nei

    Na wai e ‘ole ko‘u ho‘ohihi
    Ke ‘ala hu‘ihu‘i o ia pua

    E kuiau a lawa
    I lei ho`oheno no ku‘u kino

    Ha‘ina ‘ia mai ka puana
    Na ka pua kenikeni ko‘u ho‘ohihi

    English Translation

    The pua kenikeni is what enchants me
    The cherished fragrance at my heart

    Softly fragrant to inhale
    That which the dewdrops bear

    Who would not share my enchantment
    The thrilling perfume of that blossom

    I will string enough to make
    A cherished lei for my person

    Tell the refrain
    The pua kenikeni is what enchants me

    Buds, blossom and young green seed pod of the pua kenikeni tree. Darde Gamayo photo.

    Mature seed pods of the pua kenikeni tree.  Darde Gamayo photo.

    Pua kenikeni tree blossoms start of a light cream color and become darker yellow-orange as it ages. Darde Gamayo photo.


    Darde Gamayo
    Darde Gamayo wen graduate from Honoka'a High & Intermediate in 1986. Her also known as “Tita Nui,” cause her one tita en her is nui. Her is da winna of da 2009 Ms. Aloha Nui Contess. Which is wat wen help her get her da job on da numba 1 rayjo station on dis island, KAPA Rayjo! Her is da weeken mid day DJ. You can catch her on KAPA from 6 p.m. to midnight Mondayz true Fridayz. Her is one blhog writah fo da Her write bout all kine stuffez, like how da mongoose wen come hea, wat collah da sand on da beach, pineapple in yo food and wat eva kine stuff her tink of. Her get choken udda stuff her like fo do like, write, read, go fishin' and her love to cook too... And wen you look at her you no she like fo eat, too! Her stay livin in Waipi‘o Valley with her honey, Darren, and the rest of their ‘ohana.

    Scroll Down to Read 3 Comments



    Share this Article

    Get Weekly Updates

    Get a quick summary of what's happening on Hawaii with our weekly email of news highlights:

    View Comments