A pair of shrubs flank my front door: Tahitian gardenia (gardenia taitensis), or tiare.
The national flower of Tahiti, tiare is also beloved in Hawaii for its simple beauty and evocative fragrance.
This little snow-white blossom has a somewhat limited number of uses here in the islands. Rarely do we make leis from it — although the Tahitians do — because when the bud blossoms, it opens up flat like a daisy, which is not conducive to most lei designs.
And its small size and delicate structure — seven narrow, fragile petals projecting out from a hollow stem — prevent it from being useful in bouquets or arrangements. It pretty much starts to wilt and brown the moment you pluck it.
But as I say, it’s a special flower that holds special favor with island women. The tiare is infused in coconut oil to create Monoi Tiare Tahiti, the preferred moisturizer and tanning oil of our youth. To this day when I catch a whiff of Monoi, memories come flooding back.
When we wear flowers in our hair, tiare is one of our top choices. Perhaps you have heard of the island custom of wearing a flower over your ear, and that which ear you choose depends on your relationship status. The flower over your left ear (your heart side) means you’re spoken for; over your right ear means you’re available.
Here’s our girl with one of our tiare:
I think she either had a boyfriend at the time, or just prefers the left side.
This is the eighteenth post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.