To bike down Haleakala is to temporarily exist in another world—a realm where mist rises from the winding roads and pastureland gives way to unparalleled views of Maui’s magnificence around and below. Abundant flora and fauna will undoubtedly catch your eye as you zoom by, from jacaranda trees in wild, pastel bloom to the bristly silversword on the volcano’s moonscaped slopes. But whether you’re gliding down the summit or driving up, stay on the lookout for one of Hawaii’s most unusual and outrageous flowers: The protea.
Known for their technicolor hues, crowned heads, and rare petals—from spiky and slender to stems that evoke sea creatures—it’s no wonder that the stunning and scintillating protea is frequently associated with valor and diversity.
Rising towards the sun on the slopes of Kula, they stand as a sign of nature’s bold and sundry beauty, referred by some botanists quite simply as “The Flower That Can Change Its Form.” They’re also emblematic of Mother Nature’s sheer steadfastness: With origins dating back 300 million years—where it once grew on the supercontinent Gondwanaland before the landmass divided—proteas are one of the oldest flowers on Earth.