Hawaii's Tree of Light--the Kukui Tree by Aunty Kalei

Hawaii's Tree of Light--the Kukui Tree by Aunty Kalei

Kalei Sombelon
The official tree of the state of Hawai’i, the Kukui tree is easy to spot in our tropical rain forest. Its pale green-silver leaves stand out against the rest of the dark foliage. Known to grow over 50 feet in height, the Kukui tree is dotted with small white flowers and clumps of green pods the size of golf balls, which when open contains the actual kukui nut.
The Kukui or Candle Nut tree is known as one of the “canoe plants” because their seeds were brought to Hawai’i by the first Polynesian voyagers. For the early Hawaiians, the Kukui was critical for their survival and was used for many different purposes. Ancient Hawaiians used the oil from the Kukui nut for light. The oil was extracted from the nut and lit in stone lamps or skewered through the stem of a coconut frond and served as torches. The inner bark of the Kukui tree was used as dye for their Kapa cloth as well as ‘olona cordage. The soot of the burnt nuts produced a black dye for tattooing. Rubbing a coating of kukui nut oil on fishing nets help to protect and preserve them.
The Kukui leaves, flowers and nuts are also used as adornment. Kukui nut leis are sold in many stores through-out the islands. The kukui nut is also used to make bracelets, earring and necklaces. The leaves and flowers are woven together to make a beautiful fresh lei.
The wearing of Kukui Nut leis at a graduation or any ceremony in Hawai’i is symbolic of enlightenment or the lighting the way for the next stage of life. Yes, it is our very own tree of light.
It is said that the kupua (demi-god), Kamapua’a was a shape-shifter who could turn into a Kukui nut tree. So when locals advise you not to damage or break off branches, flowers from various trees, we’re not just protecting our place (I would NOT advise kicking or disturbing a Kukui Tree….you just never know).
Medicinally the Kukui plant, when properly prepared by a Kāhuna Lā’au Lapa’au (Hawaiian priest of medicine), has many uses.
At Island Essence we have taken the oil of the Kukui Nut to use as a wonderful massage oil or as a skin-enhancing addition to a bath. It is also great for nails, as a aftershave and moisturizer for those extra cold, dry days. Our recipe includes the Kukui and other pure oils along with a wonderful oil fragrance. We even offer Kukui Nut soap made with glycerin, and kukui oil with its own soothing fragrance.
Mention you read our blog for a free gift along with your next order!
Mahalo,
Aunty Kalei