Candlenut Tree Provides More Than Light

September 9, 2016, 9:36 AM HST (Updated November 15, 2016, 3:05 PM)
×

    +
    SWIPE LEFT OR RIGHT

    The Aleurites moluccanus, aka kukui, the state tree of Hawai’i, is also commonly known as the candlenut tree.

    While it is believed to have been brought to Hawaii from Asia by early Polynesian settlers, it is nearly impossible to know its exact origination because it was so widely spread throughout the New and Old World tropics long ago.

    It is a flowering tree that can grow over 80 feet tall. The leaves are pale green; the nut is round and commonly ranges from 1.5 to 2.5 inches in diameter.

    The seed on the inside has a very hard coating and is very high in oil content, which led to it being used as a candle—hence the name “candlenut tree.”

    SPONSORED VIDEO

    In ancient Hawai’i, the nuts were burned to provide light. Kukui nuts strung on the midrib of a palm leaf were lit at one end. The nuts burned one by one for about 15 minutes each. This also led to their use as a measure of time.

    The oil extracted from the nut was also burned in a stone lamp with a wick made of kapa cloth, called a “kukui hele po.”

    The oil was also used as a varnish for canoes and other handcrafted wooden items.

    Applying a coat of kukui oil also helped to preserve ‘upena (fishing nets).

    For thousands of years, kukui nut oil has been used for its traditional healing benefits, especially its excellent skin moisturizing effects.

    Hawaiians used it to help protect their skin from the harsh effects of the elements like the sun, wind and salt water. It was used to soothe sunburn, wind burn, acne, eczema and other problematic skin conditions.

    Kukui oil is a safe, natural product that can even be used for infant care. It is known to help soothe diaper rash and removal of cradle cap.

    Fishermen would chew on the nuts then spit them on the water to clear the surface, removing reflections and giving them clearer underwater visibility.

    The Hawaiians utilized the kukui tree or nut for many other things:

    The trunk of the tree was sometimes used to make smaller canoes and seats for the canoes.

    The charred nuts provided black ink that was used for tattooing.

    The inner bark was used to create a red-brown dye for use on kapa cloth and aho (cordage).

    Hula dancers utilize the bark and nuts of the tree for their costumes.

    Spiritually, the tree symbolizes light, hope and renewal.

    Today, kukui nut lei are widely known throughout the world—not just in Hawaii. Their natural colors are black, brown and white, although white is rare and harder to come by. There are several variations of marble and tiger-colored nuts as well.

    More than just a tree, the kukui nut tree continues to provide the world with more than just light.

     Kukui nut blossoms. Photo: Darde Gamayo

    Kukui nut blossoms. Photo: Darde Gamayo

    Blossoms and nuts of the kukui nut tree. Photo: Darde Gamayo

    Blossoms and nuts of the kukui nut tree. Photo: Darde Gamayo

    Young kukui nut tree. Photo: Darde Gamayo

    Young kukui nut tree. Photo: Darde Gamayo

     The ight color of leaves make it easy to identify kukui nut trees in the distance. Photo: Darde Gamayo

    The ight color of leaves make it easy to identify kukui nut trees in the distance. Photo: Darde Gamayo

    Darde Gamayo
    Darde Gamayo wen graduate from Honoka'a High & Intermediate in 1986. Her also known as “Tita Nui,” cause her one tita en her is nui. Her is da winna of da 2009 Ms. Aloha Nui Contess. Which is wat wen help her get her da job on da numba 1 rayjo station on dis island, KAPA Rayjo! Her is da weeken mid day DJ. You can catch her on KAPA from 6 p.m. to midnight Mondayz true Fridayz. Her is one blhog writah fo da BigIslandNow.com. Her write bout all kine stuffez, like how da mongoose wen come hea, wat collah da sand on da beach, pineapple in yo food and wat eva kine stuff her tink of. Her get choken udda stuff her like fo do like, write, read, go fishin' and her love to cook too... And wen you look at her you no she like fo eat, too! Her stay livin in Waipi‘o Valley with her honey, Darren, and the rest of their ‘ohana.
    ADVERTISEMENT

    Print

    Share this Article

    Get Weekly Updates

    Get a quick summary of what's happening on Hawaii with our weekly email of news highlights:

    ARTICLE COMMENTS ( 0 )
    View Comments