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Aleurites moluccana


Candle Nut or KuKui Nut Tree






Grows to a height of 49–82 ft, with wide spreading or pendulous branches. The trilobed leaves are pale green with a almost silvery look for a distance. The nuts kernel serves as the source of oil, and is covered with a thin layer of secondary seed coat.  In ancient Hawaiʻi, kukui nuts were burned to provide light. The nuts were strung in a row on a palm leaf midrib, lit on one end, and burned one by one every 15 minutes or so. This led to their use as a measure of time. Hawaiians also extracted the oil from the nut and burned it in a stone oil lamp called a kukui hele po (light, darkness goes) with a wick made of kapa cloth.  Hawaiians also had many other uses for the tree, including: leis from the shells, leaves, and flowers; ink for tattoos from charred nuts; a varnish with the oil; and fishermen would chew the nuts and spit them on the water to break the surface tension and remove reflections, giving them greater underwater visibility. A red-brown dye made from the inner bark was used on kapa and aho (Touchardia latifolia cordage). A coating of kukui oil helped preserve ʻupena (fishing nets). The nohona waʻa (seats), pale (gunwales) of waʻa (outrigger canoes) were made from the wood. The trunk was sometimes used to make smaller canoes used for fishing. Kukui was named the state tree of Hawaii on 1 May 1959 due to its multitude of uses. It also represents the island of Molokaʻi, whose symbolic color is the silvery green of the kukui leaf.


Widespread geographic range from China to Australia. It is also widely naturalized in the South Pacific, Africa, South America and the Caribbean.


Found in tropical forests, up to about 1,200 m altitude. It can also colonize disturbed sites and waste areas, and are often found at the forest margins, along road sides and in riparian vegetation.


Aleurites moluccana