Don’t Pluck the Red Lehua Blossom

This informant is Hawaiian and a freshman student at USC.  I asked him for any traditional Hawaiian stories and he gave me this story:

The Ohia tree is often the first plant to grow on new lava flows, but don’t ever pick its red Lehua blossom because both the tree and flower are rooted in Hawaiian legend. Ohia and Lehua were young lovers, he a handsome trickster and she the most beautiful and gentle girl on the island. But, one day Pele came across Ohia and wanted him for herself. When he refused her, she turned him into a twisted, ugly tree. Pele ignored Lehua’s pleas to change him back, but the other gods felt sorry for the young girl. They couldn’t reverse Pele’s magic, but they did turn Lehua into a beautiful red flower and placed her on the tree so that the two young lovers would never again be apart. It is said that as long as the flowers remain on the tree, the weather is sunny and fair. But when a flower is plucked from the tree, rain falls like tears since Lehua still cannot bear to be separated from her beloved husband Ohia.

After a few follow-up questions I figured out that Pele is the God of Fire, who has a short temper. The story didn’t really teach a lesson but it does exemplify how much emphasis the Hawaiian culture places on nature and the environment.