Aleurites moluccana – Kukui

Aleurites moluccana - Kukui, Indian Walnut, Candlenut, Kuikui (flowers and pale leaves)

Aleurites moluccana - Kukui, Indian Walnut, Candlenut, Kuikui (flowers)

Aleurites moluccana - Kukui, Indian Walnut, Candlenut, Kuikui (fruit)

Plant Name

Scientific Name: Aleurites moluccana

Synonyms: Aleurites javanica, Aleurites triloba

Common Names: Kukui, Indian Walnut, Candlenut, Kuikui

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial, Evergreen

Growth Habit: Tree

Hawaii Native Status: Introduced. This naturalized Polynesian canoe plant is native to Malaysia and to other, more western parts of Polynesia.

Flower Color: Creamy white

Height: Up to 65 (20 m) tall, but usually half that

Description: The plants are monoecious, with both male and female flowers on the same plant. The flowers are in convex, stellate-hairy terminal clusters. The individual flowers have 5 hairy, round-tipped petals. The female flowers are followed by rounded, 2 1/3 inch (6 cm) long, 1 to 2-seeded nuts with a slightly fuzzy, olive-green rind covering a hard black or brown shell and white kernels. The leaves have 0, 3, 5, or 7 point-tipped lobes and are pale to medium green, hairy, alternate, and variably shaped. The young leaves are paler and hairier than the mature leaves. The bark is smooth and dark gray in color. The young branches are hairy. The trees are spreading and appear a light silvery green color from a distance.

Here in Hawaii, Kukui grows in low to middle elevation, moist to mesic (moderately wet) areas.

Because of its cultural history and many uses, Kukui has been named the state tree of Hawaii.

Special Characteristics

Canoe Plant – Ancient Polynesians brought this useful plant with them to Hawaii. They extracted oil from the oily nut meats to use as lamp oil and as a linseed-like drying oil. The whole, shelled nuts were skewered on coconut leaf midribs and burned as a light source. The unshelled nuts with their glossy, polished, black, brown, and rarely white shells were used to make attractive leis, which are still being made today. The nuts were roasted and used as a flavoring in cooking. Soot from the charred nuts was used for tattooing. The inner bark was used to make a red-brown dye for tapa. The plants were also used for a variety of medicinal and other purposes and as a source of wood and fiber.

Edible – The roasted nuts have an oily, nutty flavor and can be eaten in small amounts. A mixture of the crushed, roasted nuts, known as 'inamona, is used as a flavoring to sprinkle on other foods. The raw nuts are a laxative.

Poisonous – The plants are poisonous.


Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Subclass: Rosidae
Order: Euphorbiales
Family: Euphorbiaceae – Spurge family
Genus: Aleurites J.R. Forst. & G. Forst. – aleurites
Species: Aleurites moluccana (L.) Willd. – Indian walnut

More About This Plant

Hawaii County Distribution Map