Learning to Lei
When I used to see a typical Hawaiian lei made of plumeria, I never imagined the amount of thought, preparation and labor put into its creation.
While visiting a plumeria farm on Moloka’i, we learned every step of the process—from plumeria picking to shipping. The farm we visited specializes in growing 20 varieties that are made into leis and shipped all over the continental US.
Guests visit a plumeria farm on Moloka'i
The flowers must be picked within a few hours of cracking open to assure their freshness and longevity. This time can shift throughout the day depending on rain, temperature and season.
Once picked, they get put on immediate refrigeration and begin being strung into a lei by using a 10-inch long thin needle that is strung through the center of the bloom.
Barely-opened plumeria flowers are used to make leis.
A string of barely-opened plumeria made into a necklace takes a rookie like myself about 15 minutes to create, while a professional can do it in about 3 minutes.
Beautiful aromatic blooms make traditional Hawaiian leis!
Within minutes it is packed in ice and stored in refrigeration until it is put on an overnight flight to a destination. By arrival, the ice has thawed and the flowers are at their perfect stage of opening!
Did you know?*
- The common name for plumeria is Frangipani.
- Plumeria flowers are most fragrant at night in order to lure sphinx moths to pollinate them. The flowers have no nectar, however, and simply dupe their pollinators. The moths inadvertently pollinate them by transferring pollen from flower to flower in their fruitless search for nectar.
- In modern Polynesian culture, plumeria flowers can be worn by women to indicate their relationship status: over the right ear if seeking a relationship, and over the left if taken.