Molokai Island Lei Material Pua Kukui candlenut tree

Molokai Island Lei Material: Pua Kukui (Candlenut Tree)

Molokai is one of the Hawaiian islands, and its lei material is the pua kukui, or candlenut tree. The Kukui nut tree is a prominent symbol of Hawaii, having been brought to the islands by Polynesians. Its uses are varied and essential to Hawaiian culture, from coating fisherman’s nets to using the oil topically or as a laxative. 

The white insides are roasted and chopped for seasoning, and the wood is even used for canoes. The roots create black paint, the leaves help with aches and pains, and the sap is applied to cold sores. Kukui nuts are seen as symbols of protection, peace, enlightenment, and light and are used in leis and bracelets as prayer tokens. 

The white kukui flower is the official flower of Molokai and is used to make honey. This remarkable tree is integral to Hawaiian culture and history (Source:

A detailed look at the Kukui Nut Tree (Aleurites moluccanus)

Aleurites moluccanus, or the Candlenut or Kukui Nut Tree, is a tree that grows up to 30 m (98 ft) tall with vast spreading or drooping branches and pale green simple leaves up to 20 cm in length and 13 cm wide. 

It has male flowers measuring around 5 mm (0.20 in) in diameter and female flowers around 9 mm (0.35 in) in diameter. Its fruits are drupes about 4–6 cm in diameter with one or two lobes, each containing a soft, white, oily kernel within a hard shell about 2 cm (0.79 in) in diameter. 

Carl Linnaeus was the first taxonomist to describe it in 1753 as Jatropha moluccana, but it was renamed Aleurites moluccanus by Carl Ludwig Willdenow in 1805. The genus name is from Ancient Greek (áleuron), and the species epithet means “from the Moluccas” (the Maluku Islands in Indonesia).

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The Kukui Nut Tree is native to a large area; however, its precise native range is difficult to establish due to early spread by humans. Its habitat is in the tropics. Scientists believe people on Southeast Asian islands were the first to domesticate it, as archeologists have found harvested candlenuts from archaeological sites in Timor and Morotai in eastern Indonesia. 

It grows in tropical rainforests, gallery forests, and disturbed rainforests up to an altitude of 800 m. Rodents eat the seeds, and some Bettle larvae feed on dead candlenut wood.

The Kukui Nut Tree has many uses in many cultures, with the nut and oil commonly being used in curries or a thick sauce. It is also known as lumbang in the Philippines, and the Dusun tribes in Malaysia use it in tattoo-making. In contrast, Hawaiians use roasted kukui nuts and salt to make the condiment inamona. 

Ancient Hawaiians used the nut for light, ink, varnish, fishing, and canoe-building, and Aboriginal Australians used it for similar purposes. In Uganda, the seed is known as kabakanjagala, meaning “the king loves me.” In Fiji, people use candlenut oil in cosmetic products. It is mildly toxic when raw due to saponin and phorbol content, but the oil is not known to be toxic.

Kukui Nut Tree is a significant symbol in Maui mythology, representing enlightenment, protection, and peace. The demigod Kamapuaa is said to be able to transform into a kukui tree. (Source:

Candlenut Oil

Candlenut oil (also known as Spanish walnut, Belgaum walnut oil, or kekune oil) is extracted from the candlenut or kukui tree. It is used in many parts of the world, such as Polynesia, Hawaii, South Asia, and China. 

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It is valued commercially for its use as a drying oil and illuminant, as it has a density of 0.92g/cm3 and a saponification value of 179.1, an iodine number of 155.5, and a Reichert value of 2.82. Its fatty acid composition consists of 15% oleic acid, 40% linoleic acid, and less than 30% linolenic acid. 

When ingested, candlenut oil acts as a mild cathartic and purgative. Historically, people used it as an emollient, and today it is mainly used in skin-care products (Source: