Common Name
Candle Nut Tree

Hawaiian Name

Scientific Name
Aleurites moluccana


Stairs by Learning Center

Whole Plant





In front of Kaiona


Different types of leaves

Location On Campus

In front of Kaiona, room 55 and on the left side stairs when walking towards the Learning Center.

Natural Habitat

This plant is found on all islands, usually in valleys and gulches up to 500 meters in elevation. It's also found in moist tropical regions.

Cultural Information

Kukui was brought here by the Polynesians to Hawaii. It is the state tree of Hawai‘i. In the days of old Hawai‘i the oil was used for candles and this tree made many colors for dye. The colors varied from copper, to red, to black for laying onto kapa. Folk medicines were made from the raw nut and sap. This tree was the most important for the Hawaiians. Every part of the plant was used for different purposes.

Plant Description


  • Used for black dye and medicine
  • Brown in color
  • Tap root
  • Found close to or on the surface of the ground


  • Bark used for red dye, medicine
  • Woody stem
  • Hard, strong, and rigid
  • Grows straight up and branch out at the top
  • Can reach up to 18 m high and 12.5 cm in diameter


  • Used for leis, medicine
  • Waxy leaf tips
  • Green in color
  • Pinnate venation
  • Lobed margin
  • Simple leaf
  • About 12.5 - 20 cm long
  • Rough texture


  • Used to heal cold sores inside the mouth
  • Small and whitish yellow in color
  • 5 petals


  • Used for healing constipation
  • A Dry fruit
  • Contains 1 nut
  • Has fibrous husk
  • Green in color
  • Round
  • Soft meat inside
  • Meat is moist


  • Used in oil lanterns, leis, food, medicines
  • Black and as it rots turns white and disintegrates
  • Meat is found in the inside of the nut
  • Outside is hard and solid
  • It is bumpy and sort of rigid
  • Only one seed inside the fruit


  • Male and female flowers are in 1 cluster
  • Insects are attracted by the flowers
  • Can be self pollinated


  •  Soak seeds in hot water 5 minutes before planting
  • Takes 4 months to germinate
Interesting Facts:
  • Oil of the white kernels is/was extracted for use in stone lamps and in ti leaf torches
  • Shelled nuts were put onto amid-rib of a coconut husk (frond) and lit one by one, from the top to bottom, they were set into container of sand or dirt
  • Food, a small amount of the pounded roasted nuts, plus salt and sometimes chili peppers, is used as a relish and is called Inamona
  • White flowers were chewed by the parents of a young child and given to the child to aid in healing of thrush sores inside the mouth
  • Bad cases of ulcers and other skin sores, the baked meat of ripe kukui nuts would do the thing
  • Wood of the tree trunk was carved into canoes

Web Site Links

 Hawaiian Plant Research Project: Kukui

This site describes the habitat and cultural information of the kukui tree.

Canoe Plants of Ancient Hawai‘i: Kukui

This site tells about the uses of the different parts of the kukui tree.

 Ethnobotany of the Ahupua‘a: Kukui

This site explains about the stem, leaves, flowers, and fruit that are a part of the kukui.


Canoe Plants of Ancient Hawai'i: Kukui. Nelda Quensell K., KCC Web Team. 1999, 2000. Kapi'olani Community College 13 March 2000 <>

Ethnobotany to the Ahupua'a: Kukui. Nelda Quensal K., KCC Web Team. 1999, 2000. Kapi'olani Community College. 13 March 2003 <>

Green, Peter S. A Hawaiian Florigium. Lawa'i: National Tropical Botanical Garden, 1996.

Hawaiian Plant Research Project: Kukui. Ariel and Nick, 13 March 2003 <>

 Kepler, Angela Kay. Hawaiian Heritage Plants. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1998.

 Krauss, Beatrice H. Plants in Hawaiian Medicine. Honolulu: The Bess Press, 2001

Pacific Island Ecosystem at Risk (PIER):Aluerites mollucana. Wild, Euphorbieaceae, 13 March 2003 <>

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