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ALEURITES moluccanus

Image of Aleurites moluccanus

Forest & Kim Starr

Family

Euphorbiaceae

Botanical Name

ALEURITES moluccanus

Plant Common Name

Candleberry, Candlenut, Kukui

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

Handsome foliage that is maple-like and a frosty gray and green, candlenut produces flushes of pretty white flowers year 'round and crops of green fruits that have dark seeds rich in flammable oils. A tropical, evergreen tree that has many economic uses, it is native to the lowland forests of Southeast Asia and the southwestern Pacific. Although the state tree of Hawaii, it is not native and is actually considered quite invasive there and in other tropical regions. It attains a rounded, spreading canopy with smooth sandy brown bark.

The foliage of candlenut is lovely and soft. First emerging a downy and frosty gray, the leaves are oval to lobed (like those of a maple) often arrowhead-shaped. When mature, leaf undersides remain fuzzy and silvery and flutter in the slightest breeze. In flushes across the year, stem tips bear clusters of pretty, small, white, five-petaled flowers. These become golf ball-sized light green-gray fruits that house one or two seeds after being pollinated by bees. These hard-shelled seeds are rich in oils that traditionally were strung upon a coconut palm frond's midrib and lit to illuminate the darkness. Soot from the burned nuts is used in tattooing, and can also make a coppery dye.

Grow candlenut in full sun to light shade in any moist soil that has decent drainage. Tolerant of salt, drought and even water-retentive soil, this species is regarded as an invasive as its fast growth, repeated flowering and production of viable seeds readily causes one tree to become a grove.

The tree is quite messy, repeatedly dropping leaf litter and the rounded fruits. Also, there are health concerns regarding all parts of this plant, more information can be gleaned from http://hawaii.gov/hdoa/pi/pest/BROCHURE_TOPTENproof.pdf

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 9

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    10 - 12

  • Sunset Zone

    H2, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    45'-60' / 13.7m - 18.3m

  • Width

    50'-65' / 15.2m - 19.8m

  • Bloom Time

    Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Southeastern Asia, Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Wet Site, Drought, Salt

  • Growth Rate

    Very Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White

  • Fruit Color

    Light Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Gray Green, Gray

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Gray Green, Gray

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green

  • Bark Color

    Sandy Brown

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Mixed Border, Shade Trees, Street Trees, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Yes

  • Attracts

    Birds, Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes