The state tree of Hawaii is the kukui tree, also known by many other names.
It’s a really important tree to Hawaii, having been used for countless things on the islands from ancient times all the way to the present day!
We’ll take a look at the kukui tree, and tell you all about it!
Kukui Tree – State Tree Of Hawaii
Since 1959, the official state tree of Hawaii has been the kukui tree.
It’s a very distinctive plant, and is said to be a symbol of peace, protection, and enlightenment in Maui mythology.
In fact, Kamapua’a, a Hawaiian demigod, is said to have been able to turn into a kukui tree.
However, the kukui tree isn’t actually technically a native tree to Hawaii!
Although the kukui tree of course grows in Hawaii, it was actually introduced to Hawaii by seafaring voyagers.
It has been used by human civilizations in many places across the planet for many thousands of years, with some examples of harvested nuts from the tree having been dated to 13000 years ago!
Of course, having been grown in Hawaii for so long, it’s really only on a technicality that the kukui tree is a non native tree.
Its importance to Hawaiian culture certainly more than makes up for the fact that it was brought to the islands, and not originally found there. It’s long proved to be an extremely useful plant!
It’s known by many other names, of course.
As well as the scientific name (Aleurites moluccanus), it is also known as the Indian walnut, the varnish tree, and the kukui nut tree – as well as a whole host of other names in many languages for the tree, such as kemiri, nuez de la india, rata kekuna, and buah keras.
The most famous other name for the kukui tree is candlenut tree – so called because of a famous use for oil from the large nuts that are harvested from the tree.
This oil can be put to many uses – and one of them is making candles!
The kukui tree is also a really impressive physical specimen! The kukui tree can easily reach heights of almost 100 feet, towering above the ground.
And of course, it’s famed for the sheer size of the nuts which grow on the tree, with each fruit growing to between 1.5-2.4 inches in diameter.
If you like, you can even grow your own kukui tree at home, as later on we’ll look at some tips for growing your very own kukui tree!
What Is The Kukui Tree Used For?
The nut of the kukui tree is such a versatile fruit! It is used for an absolutely massive range of things.
Most famously, of course, is the use which gives the kukui tree one of its names – candles!
The oil from the kernel of the kukui tree has long been used to make candles with – the oil being burned in a stone lamp called a kukui hele po.
In fact, the nuts are so great at burning that ancient Hawaiians used to even burn the nuts directly to make light!
They could even use the burning nuts to crudely measure time, as nuts of the same approximate size would all take roughly the same time to burn.
Another famous use that gave the tree a name is making varnish from the oil of the nuts from the tree!
This of course is why the tree is sometimes known as the varnish tree.
It doesn’t stop there, however – charred nuts could also be used to make ink for tattoos.
And of course, the oil from kukui tree nuts is also used a lot in the cosmetics industry, being a key part of many skincare products!
And, of course, one of the most famous uses of kukui tree nuts – food! The nuts from the kukui tree have been used in cuisine practically everywhere they grow.
The nuts have to be cooked before consumption, as are toxic when raw. Once cooked though, they are said to be absolutely delicious!
A traditional Hawaiian condiment is made from kukui tree nuts – ‘inamona. Roasted kukui tree nuts are mixed with sea salt, and occasionally mixed with seaweed.
It’s a really common and popular Hawaiian condiment, and you’ll often find it accompanying poke.
Many other cultures of course use kukui tree nuts in their cuisine.
Malaysian and Indonesian cuisine makes great use of cooked kukui tree nuts to make curries and sauces.
ANd it’s not just the nuts that are useful – practically every part of this tree has been made useful, particularly in Hawaii – no doubt why the tree is so important to Hawaiian culture!
Boats can be made from the wood of the tree, dye can be made from the bark – and, of course, the leaves and flowers of the tree are used for ritual and decoration!
Can You Grow Them At Home?
Kukui trees can indeed be grown at home, with the right soil and climate – and, of course, a little bit of love!
They prefer to be planted in slightly acidic soil, but it’s actually quite tolerant of other soil types.
The most important thing is that it’s planted in good, fertile soil, so that it can grow to its absolute best.
It’s an evergreen tree, which means that it will retain its leaves throughout the seasons.
As such, it’s a tree that loves as much light as it can get throughout the year.
Therefore, for best results, you’ll ideally want to plant your kukui tree in a place where it gets full sunlight.
However, it will tolerate light shade too – just make sure not to put it in a place that’s too dark!
The other really important thing to remember is that the kukui tree loves to be near water – but needs to be planted in soil that has good drainage, as it won’t do well in conditions that are too moist or waterlogged.
With so many great uses, it’s no wonder that the kukui tree is so important to Hawaii and Hawaiian culture. Hopefully, this article has helped you learn a little about it!