The state tree of Hawaii is the kukui tree. It is commonly called the candlenut tree, though some people refer to it by its species name, Aleurites moluccana. It was officially designated the state tree of Hawaii by the state legislature in 1959. Interestingly, it originated in Polynesia, making Hawaii the only state in the United States to have a non-native tree as its official state tree. It can be identified by its silvery-green leaves, small white blossoms, and golf-ball-sized nuts.
Originally, the state tree of Hawaii was the coconut palm. It was named the state tree by the governor of the then-Territory of Hawaii. In 1959, however, for reasons that are unknown, the state tree of Hawaii was changed to the kukui.
The kukui tree has many uses. The nuts may be lit on fire, for instance, similar to a candle — lending to the origination of its common name, the candlenut tree. In fact, the nuts commonly were used in torches because they would burn for several hours and emit quite a bit of light. The nuts were also used in leis. They are often polished in these famous welcoming floral necklaces, creating shiny white, black, or brown sections of the lei.
The oil from the nuts can be used as well. For example, the oil may be used in soap or varnish. It is also used as a preservative for items such as fishing nets and wood. In addition, some people use the oil as a moisturizer for their skin, and it is sometimes used as a remedy for sunburn and psoriasis.
People looking for natural alternatives to modern medicine use several parts of the state tree of Hawaii to treat a wide variety of ailments. For example, the sap from the nut and bark is thought to treat chapped lips. In addition, the nuts are believed to treat constipation if they are mashed and consumed. Additionally, the flowers are thought to treat thrush, a throat infection that affects young children. It is important to remember that the nuts are considered moderately poisonous, so only a person experienced in homeopathic remedies should use them for medicinal purposes.
The state tree of Hawaii symbolizes peace, protection, and enlightenment. These symbols are prominently displayed, as the kukui is used in the peaceful welcome leis, in protective medicine, and as a light source. Hawaiian history indicates that the tree descended from one of the Hawaiian gods, the pig god. As a result, many people believe that the leaves of the kukui tree look like a pig's nose or ears. Others think that the leaves simply resemble the common maple tree.