The Hawaiian Rain Forest is the 12th and final stamp pane in the Nature of America series, an educational series focusing on the beauty and complexity of major plant and animal communities in the United States. Dawson painted all scenes in the series.
The setting for the stamp pane is a rain forest on the island of Hawai`i. To illustrate the spectacular biodiversity of this ecosystem, Dawson depicted more than 24 different plant and animal species in his colorful acrylic painting. The leaves and branches of mature `ohi`a trees dominate the forest canopy. Below, the lush understory is dense with ferns, saplings, flowering trees, and shrubs.
Colorful blossoms attract honeycreepers such as the scarlet `i`iwi, whose long, curved bill allows it to reach the nectar of tubular haha flowers. An `amakihi sips the nectar of red `ohi`a lehua blossoms, while an `akepa glides toward the same tree, where it will glean insects from leaf buds. The Hawaiian thrush known as `oma`o prefers fruits and berries.
Small insects and spiders are visible near the bottom and center of the painting. A Kamehameha butterfly lays eggs on the leaves of mamaki, its primary host plant. Among the smallest creatures is the happyface spider, shown in extreme close-up at lower right in the painting.
Only one mammal—the `ope`ape`a, or Hawaiian hoary bat—is native to the rain forests of Hawai`i. This fast-flying, insect-eating bat gets its name from the frosty appearance of its grayish-brown fur.