Hawaiian Name

Common Name

Scientific Name
Colubrina oppositifolia


Keawe Garden

Whole Plant



Location On Campus

This plant is located by Keawe Gym in the garden in front of the dorms.

Natural Habitat

Kauila is extremely rare and only found on the Big Island and on O'ahu, growing on the dry leeward slopes of North Kona and on the Wai'anae mountains. Kauila grows in dry to moist forests and is usually found by other plants like the lama.

Cultural Information

Kauila is native endemic to Hawaii, meaning it came to these islands by natural forces and can only be found here, not anywhere else in the world. Now this tree is almost extinct and can only be found on two islands, but was once used for many things by the ancient Hawaiians. Most of the Kauila plants have gotten to be extinct were that most of them have been killed off by brush fires. Using the hard, strong wood from the Kauila, the Hawaiians would construct heavy tools such as kapa mallets, poles, weapons, and fishing tools. There are two species of Kauila, this one, the Colubrina oppositifolia, and the Alphitonia ponderosa, which isn't as rare.

Plant Description


  • Woody stem with large, round flakes that is colored light brown to gray
  • Wood is hard, and dark red to black in color
  • Stem grows straight up
  • Hawaiians used the wood for many things: mainly making heavy tools such as weapons and fishing tools


  • Oval shaped with pointed ends
  • Thin, flexible, and smooth edges
  • Size's range from 5 cm to 12 cm long, and 3 cm to 7 cm wide
  • Entire margin
  • Parallel venation
  • Simple leaf type


  • Yellow green color
  • 0.64 cm in diameter
  • 5 sepals and 5 petals
  • Grows in clusters of 10-12 flowers


  • 0.8-1.1 cm long
  • Fleshy
  • Greenish brown in color


  • Dark brown in color
  • Shape is oval
  • 0.64 cm long
  • Several seeds inside of each fruit

Life Cycle/

  •  Process of germination for the seeds lasts for about 2-4 weeks


  • Plant in a shallow container
  • Medium should be kept moist until seeds germinate
  • Keep in a covered or shaded area

Other Interesting Facts:

  • Very rare and only found on two islands

Web Site Links

Hawaiian Native Plant Propagation Database
This web site has more information about the propagation of the Kauila plant.

Environment Hawaii
This site has an article with information about where the Kauila is found and how it survives there.

Hawaii's Unique And Vanishing Flora
In this website you will find a picture of the Kauila and a description of the plant.


Culliney, John L., and Bruce P. Koebele. A Native Hawaiian Garden. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999.

Hawaiian Native Plant Propagation Database. 14 Dec. 2001. College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources University of Hawaii at Manoa. 13 March 2003. <>.

Krauss, Beatrice H. Plants in Hawaiian Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1995.

Lamb, Samuel H. Native Trees and Shrubs of the Hawaiian Islands. New Mexico: Sunstone Press, 1981.

Wagner, Warren L., Derral R. Herbst, and S.H Sohmer. Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawaii. Vol. 2. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press,1999.

Ziegler, Morjorie. "Kauila" Environment Hawaii. July 2001.

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