The flowers of a candlenut or kukui tree in Hawaii
The flowers of a candlenut or kukui tree in Hawaii

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Leaves and Trees.’ See more responses here.

Candlenut (Aleurites moluccana) is known as Kukui in Hawaii. It’s a canoe plant, brought to Hawaii by the early Polynesian settlers. The tree can grow to around 60 feet tall but is usually shorter. Large clusters of small white flowers are followed by round nuts, which can be seen at the top of the second photo.

The tree had many uses. Oil was extracted from the nuts for various uses and the nuts themselves were burned for lighting, hence the name. Roasted nuts are edible and were used for flavoring. Raw nuts are a potent laxative. The plants had several other uses, both decorative and medicinal.

Because of this versatility and cultural background, Kukui was named the state tree of Hawaii in 1959, replacing the coconut palm. It’s the only state to have a non-indigenous state tree.


9 thoughts on “Candlenut

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  2. Terri Webster Schrandt

    That is such a unique history of the Candlenut Tree, Graham! I think kukui nuts define Hawaii, but I’m not surprised it was a canoe plant since most of Hawaii’s flora was imported. Very gorgeous and I love the delicate white flowers. They remind me of Alpine Flox but perhaps bigger. Do they have a fragrance?

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    1. Graham Post author

      I don’t think the flowers are fragrant, or at least I haven’t noticed any. They do have the look of the flox you mentioned, but kukui flowers are in quite dense clusters.

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