Distribution Native to Malesia, although its precise native range is essentially impossible to determine because of its early spread by man, now widespread in many tropical areas. In the Hawaiian Islands, a Polynesian introduction on Ni`ihau, Kaua`i, O`ahu, Moloka`i, Lana`i, Maui, Hawai`i.
Habit Spreading trees 10-20 m tall, bark smooth, gray-brown; branches and leaves pubescent with stellate hairs at least on younger parts.
Leaves Leaves usually pale green, blades variable in shape, broadly ovate to rhomboid, cordate, or lanceolate, (7-)14-40(-61) cm long, (2.5-)8-15(-31) cm wide, pubescent with stellate hairs, especially on lower surface and when young, 3-5(-7) lobed or rarely unlobed, apex long acuminate, base truncate, cordate, or sometimes broadly cuneate, petioles (5.5-)10-16(-19) cm long.
Flowers Flowers numerous in terminal, paniculate cymes usually 10-15 cm long, pubescent with stellate hairs; staminate flowers with calyx ca. 3 mm long, petals white, 6-8 mm long, stamens 15-20, in 4 series; pistillate flowers with calyx ca. 6 mm long, petals white, 7-10 mm long, ovary 2 celled, ovules 1 per cell.
Fruit Fruit subglobose, 50-60(-70) mm in diameter, with 4 shallow furrows, indehiscent.
Seeds Seeds 1-2, (2.3-)3-4 cm in diameter, seed coat thick and very hard.
Chromosomes 2n = 22, 44.
Notes Polynesian introduction, used medicinally and for seed oil.
Common or English Name: Candlenut Tree, Kukui, Tuitui, Varnish tree, Candleberry tree
Micronesian Names by Islands or Island Groups:Raguar (Guam, Carolinian name), Lumbang (Guam, Filipino name), Sakan (Palau), Sakan or Shakan (Pohnpei)
Description: This small to medium sized tree grows up to 10 m (30 ft) or more with a canopy that can stretch out to about the same length as its height. The bark is gray-brown to blackish and the leaves and inflorescence have a mealy-scurfy whitish to light brown covering of fine hairs. The leaves are simple and ovate or trilobed or rarely 5-lobed, and acute at the apex; the leaf blades are generally about 10-20 cm (4-8 in) long on an equally long slender petiole. Its abundant small flowers are produced in in many-flowered panicles 10-15 cm (4-6 in) long. The roundish fruits are 4-6 cm (1-1.5 in) long with oily seeds held in a bony endocarp (Stone 1970).
Uses by Island or Island Group: The Candlenut Tree, Aleurites moluccana, has had important uses on many tropical Pacific islands and can be considered one of the world’s great multipurpose plants with traditional and modern uses of its wood, flowers, seeds and oil.
Uses in the Mariana Islands: Candlenut trees had become uncommon on Guam by Safford’s time (1905): tells us that this treewas either called by the Filipino name lumbang, or the Carolinian name raguar. Others have referred to it as a recent introduction into some areas such as Guam (Clarke and Thaman 1993). In any case, use of the Candlenut Tree use in the Mariana Islands, when it arrived via humans, probably was similar to traditional usage elsewhere in Micronesia.
Uses in Pohnpei: The nuts of Aleurites moluccanacan be used as a source of food and useful body oil. The oily nuts can also be burned to provide light at night, and thus the common English name of this plant is “Candlenut,” or Sakan in Pohnpeian. In old Pohnpei, the ash from the burnt nutshells (endocarp) was used as a dye source for tattooing which was very important traditionally before the arrival of the Europeans.
Uses in Kosrae: Although this useful, multi-purpose, fast-growing, soft-wooded tree is probably no longer found on Kosrae (e.g., Space et al. 2000b), Aleurites moluccana may have been an important plant in early times on Kosrae. The nuts are a source of food and useful body oil.It has many medicinal and other applications.For example, as in Pohnpeian and many other Pacific Islands, the oily nuts were burned to provide light at night. According to Christian (1899), in old Kosrae, the ash from the burnt nut shells was used as a source of black dye, as in other Pacific Islands, to make traditional tattoo markings which were important before Europeans arrived; see Sarfert (1919/1920) for line drawing that shows tattoo on arm of an early 20th century Kosraean male made using burnt candlenut dye.
Common or English Name: Candlenut Tree, Tuitui, Kukui, Kuikui
Polynesia Names by Islands or Island Groups: Kukui (Hawaii), Tuitui (Tonga), Fiji [Rotuma], Cook Islands, Niue