Aleurites moluccana, more commonly known as the candlenut tree or kukui, is native to Malaysia, the Philippines and Polynesia. The tree has been naturalized and cultivated in other tropical regions of the world, including Hawaii, where it has become important in Hawaiian culture.
Candlewood trees have distinguishing silvery or grayish-green leaves. The tree grows up to 80 feet tall within forest areas. It has white wood similar to holly wood. White flowers grow in clusters during the spring, while green or brown fruits appear after flowering.
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Like other tropical trees, candlenut trees need moist tropical conditions for the best growth. The climate conditions of Hawaii are optimal for the tree. In Hawaii, the tree can be found in lowland forests and planted as shade and ornamental trees.
Ancient Hawaiians used the wood of the tree to make lightweight canoes and fishnet floats. Shells of the seed were used for leis and costume jewelry, while the seeds themselves were roasted and eaten as a snack. Oil pressed from the seeds was used for drying oil and medicinally.
In 1959, state legislature officially recognized the candlenut tree as the state tree of Hawaii. This tree was chosen because of its multiple uses in Hawaiian culture as well as its visually pleasing presence around the island.