Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry

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indigenous  species  such  as  Pisonia umbellifera,  Boehmeria

virgata, Pandanus sp., Freycinetia impavida, Hernandia sp., 

Cyclophyllum barbatum, Macaranga sp., Weinmannia parvi-

flora, Glocihdion sp., Neonauclea forsteri, Ixora moorensis, and 

Tarenna sambucina (Mueller-Dombois and Fosberg 1998).


As kukui is an aboriginal introduction to the Pacific islands, 

it is generally found in disturbed mesic (moderately moist) 

forest  habitats.  In  Hawai‘i,  it  is  very  conspicuous  along 

stream valleys and ravines. However, it can also be found 

in association with native species. It is found in cultivated 

forest remnants in the Marquesas and other high volcanic 

islands of the Pacific.

Associated native species commonly found

In  Pahole  Gulch,  O‘ahu,  Hawai‘i,  kukui  is  a  dominant 

species  in  a  forest  composed  of  Diospyros hillebrandii,  D.

sandwicensis, Pisonia umbellifera, and P. brunoniana (Muel-

ler-Dombois  and  Fosberg  1998).  Kukui  is  also  a  domi-

nant  in  non-native  forests  of  the  Pahole  Gulch  Natural 

Area, composed of Syzygium cumini, Psidium spp., Schinus 

terebinthifolius,  and  Eucalyptus  (Mueller-Dombois  and 

On Mangaia (Cook Islands), kukui is found in “disturbed 

native” mixed-species forest dominated by the native tree 

species Elaeocarpus floridanus and Hernandia moerenhoutia-

na (Merlin 1991). Introduced species associated with kukui 

include Cocos nucifera, Morinda citrifolia, Hibiscus tiliaceus, 

and Psidium guajava.

In  the  Marquesas,  this  species  is  found  in  formerly  cul-

tivated  valley  bottomlands. The  vegetation  here  has  been 

described  as  a  mesophytic  (medium  moisture)  forest 

composed largely of food and other useful plants such as 

Artocarpus,  Annona,  Ceiba,  Cocos,  Citrus,  Coffea,  Syzygium, 

Inga,  Inocarpus,  Mangifera,  Pandanus,  Persea,  Psidium, 

Pometia,  and  Spondias  (Mueller-Dombois  and  Fosberg 

1998, Decker 1992). On Eiao Island (Marquesas), kukui is 

found in the gulches with Pisonia grandis, Hibiscus tiliaceus, 

Thespesia populnea,  Dodonea viscosa,  and  Annona squamosa 

(Mueller-Dombois and Fosberg 1998).

In Tahiti, kukui is found in the submontane rain and valley 

forests in association with native species along with bread-

fruit  (Artocarpus altilis),  mango  (Mangifera indica),  and 

coconut  (Cocos nucifera)  (Mueller-Dombois  and  Fosberg 


Species commonly associated as aboriginal intro-

duction in Pacific islands



This species has a large geographical distribution. Climati-


Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry (www.traditionaltree.org)  

cally  it  is  found  in  subtropical  dry  and  wet  climates  and 

tropical  very  dry  to  wet  forest  climates.  In  Hawai‘i,  the 

species is found between 0 and 700 m (0–2300 ft) (Wag-

ner  et  al.  1999).  Near  the  equator,  the  tree  is  reported  to 

grow on a variety of soils up to 2000 m (6560 ft), although 

it is more likely that it has an upper limit of about 1200 m 

(3940 ft). 

Soil drainage 

It requires free drainage.

Soil acidity 

It grows in lightly acidic to alkaline soils (pH 5–8).

Special soil tolerances 

Kukui tolerates infertile soils.

Elevation range 

0–700 m (0–2300 ft) (Hawai‘i), but can grow up to 1200 m 

(3940 ft) closer to equator.

Mean annual rainfall 

640–4290 mm (25–170 in) (mean of 14 cases, 1940 mm [76 

in]) (Duke 1983)

Rainfall pattern 

Kukui  grows  in  climates  with  summer,  winter,  bimodal, 

and uniform rainfall patterns.

Dry season duration (consecutive months with <0 

mm [1. in] rainfall) 

3–5 months or longer, as the species is often found along 

streams that may have subsurface water even after longer 

dry spells

Mean annual temperature 

19–27°C (66–81°F)

Mean maximum temperature of hottest month

26–30°C (79–86°F)

Mean minimum temperature of coldest month

8–13°C (46–55°F)

Minimum temperature tolerated

8°C (46°F) (estimate) 

Said  to  occur  on  a  variety  of  soils,  including  red  loams, 

stony  clay  ground,  sand,  and  limestone.  As  evidenced  by 

its relative absence in Northern Guam (which is underlain 

by limestone), kukui does not seem to prefer alkaline soils. 

However,  its  presence  on  Mangaia,  which  has  Makatea 

soils with some limestone, suggests a tolerance of neutral 

to slightly alkaline soils. The species is dominant on moist, 

well  drained  acidic  soils  (perhaps  Inceptisols  and  Ando-

sols) of the high volcanic islands of the Pacific Basin.



Kukui  is  quite  drought  tolerant  once  well  established. 

However, it flourishes in moist environments.

Full sun

The tree prefers full sun and can grow as a pioneer species 

in open areas with suitable rainfall. 


Kukui can grow in a modest amount of shade, up to 25%. 


The species is probably intolerant of fire.


It is probably intolerant of frost, as it is generally confined 

to the lower slopes of pali (steep slopes) that do not experi-

ence frost (up to about 700 m [2300 ft] in Hawai‘i).


Although the species is an indicator of stream courses, it 

favors well drained, moist soils.

Salt spray

Kukui  tolerates  a  modest  amount  of  salt  spray  and  is  oc-

casionally found growing near the coast.


It tolerates both steady and storm winds and makes a suit-

able windbreak tree, especially in a multi-row windbreak.



Regenerate rapidly

The  tree  can  grow  well  even  on  relatively  poor  sites,  pro-

vided ample soil moisture is available, particularly during 



Kukui  regrows  very  well  even  after  severe  pruning,  al-

though it has a tendency to die after two or more prunings 

Soil texture 

The tree prefers light and medium texture soils (sands, san-

dy loams, loams, and sandy clay loams).

  Aleurites moluccana (kukui)

in quick succession.


Kukui is known for its ability to grow well on 

slopes, even steep gulches and cliffs.



There is little direct information on the growth 

and  development  of  kukui.  It  is  said  that  the 

tree is quick growing and readily colonizes dis-

turbed  gaps  and  forest  margins.  Given  these 

characteristics, kukui probably has growth rates 

comparable to other common secondary forest 

tree  species.  The  tree  requires  little  attention 

once it is established.

Flowering and fruiting

Flowering and fruiting begins at 3–4 years old. 

In many places flowering and fruiting take place 

almost  continuously,  frequently  with  flowers 

and fruits of all stages of ripeness occurring on 

each tree.

Kukui can hold its own even in the presence of 

grasses and other herbaceous weeds.

Reaction to competition


Propagation  of  kukui  seedlings  is  easily  done 

by seed. Although the seeds can take up to 3–4 

months to germinate, they are large and quickly 

grow into strong, stout seedlings ready for field 

planting. Seedlings are not finicky about grow-

ing  location  (tolerating  sun  or  partial  shade), 

nor  do  they  require  special  growing  medium 

or watering regimes. Due to the quick growth 

of germinating seeds into seedlings, seeds lend  Ripe fruit can often be collected from underneath the lower canopy (top),

themselves to either being direct-seeded in the  or seeds can be collected from the ground under trees with the husk already

field  or  pregerminated  in  the  nursery,  then  di- deteriorated (bottom). photos: C. ElEvitCh

rect-seeded.  Kukui  can  also  be  propagated  by 

cuttings,  but  this  is  uncommon  and  may  not Seed processing

yield a plant that grows as vigorously as a seedling.

If  the  fruits  are  fresh,  they  are  allowed  to  decay  a  few 

Kukui  flowers  and  fruits  intermittently  throughout  the 

year. Mature fruits can be picked from the tree or collected 

from the ground.

Seed collection

days in a moist area, which facilitates peeling off the thick, 

leathery  outer  husk. This  exposes  the  hard  shell  that  en-

closes the seed. There are about 100–120 seeds per kg (45–55 

seeds/lb) with husk removed and shells on. Typically, ger-

mination is about 80% over the course of several months. 

Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry (www.traditionaltree.org)  

To improve the germination rate, bad seeds can be floated 

off in water.

Seeds  can  be  stored  for  several  months  when  dried  to 

10–12% moisture content. Often seeds lying on the ground 

under trees are viable and can be used successfully.

Seed storage

It  has  been  reported  that  200–300  seedlings  are  planted 

per hectare for oil seed production. In windbreaks, kukui 

can be planted 3–4 m (10–13 ft) apart in the row.

Guidelines for outplanting


There  are  very  few  disadvantages  to  planting  the  widely 

adapted and multipurpose kukui tree. Perhaps the biggest 

commercial disadvantage is that no large markets exist for 

any  kukui  products.  Also,  it  is  so  easy  to  grow  in  many 

environments that there is no clear commercial advantage 

to growing it in any specific place. For example, any kukui 

product that can be produced in Hawai‘i can be easily re-

produced in other tropical regions where the costs of land 

and labor are cheaper.

Pre-planting treatments

Untreated seeds germinate in about 4 months. Sun warm-

ing of a moist medium is thought to hasten and improve 

germination.  Cracking  the  seed  coat  (shell)  and  soaking 

overnight  in  water  may  also  hasten  germination.  Fungi 

growing on the seed coat may become a problem for ger-

minating seeds, so treating the seeds with a fungicide prior 

to  sowing  may  be  helpful  in  reducing  fungal  problems. 

Seed scarification with acid does not benefit germination.

Kukui seeds can grow in moderate shade, but full sun also 

works and may hasten germination. 

Growing area

Potential for invasiveness


Kukui has naturalized in several Pacific islands, particular-

ly in Hawai‘i, and has the potential to become established 

outside of cultivation. Despite this, kukui is rarely consid-

ered a harmful invasive or pest species.

Seeds can be direct-seeded in containers or pregerminated 

in beds. When seeds are pregerminated in a bed, it is best to 

transplant the seeds just as they begin to germinate when 

the  seed  cracks  open.  Pregerminated  seeds  can  either  be 

planted in nursery containers or direct-sown in the field.

Because kukui germinants have a large, thick taproot, it is 

recommended that seedlings are grown in 2–4 liter (1/2–1 

gallon)  root-training  containers.  Use  a  well  drained  pot-

ting medium such as 50% peat moss, 25% perlite, and 25% 

vermiculite, amended with a little compost, dolomite lime, 

gypsum,  and  14–14–14  slow-release  fertilizer.  Potting  me-

dia should also be inoculated with mycorrhizal fungi from 

a reputable commercial source, particularly if the trees will 

be planted in degraded soils.

After germination, plants are ready to be transplanted into 

the field after about 3–4 months. 


The following fungi are known to attack kukui: Cephalospo-

rium sp., Clitocybe tabescens, Fomes hawaiensis, Gloeosporium

aleuriticum, Physalospora rhodina, Polyporus gilvus, Pythium

ultimum,  Sclerotium rolfsii,  Sphaeronema reinkingii,  Tram-

etes corrugata,  Xylaria curta,  Ustulina deusta.  Nematodes 

include Meloidogyne sp. (Duke 1983).

Susceptibility to pests/pathogens



Mulch/organic matter

Kukui leaves make a good mulch. To preserve the health 

of the tree and encourage rapid regrowth, only a small per-

centage of the leaves (less than 20%) should be removed at 

any one time.

Soil stabilization

Kukui  grows  well  on  steep  slopes  and  in  gulches.  Along 

with  koa  (Acacia koa),  kukui  was  one  of  the  first  trees 

planted by the Hawai‘i Division of Forestry for watershed 


Crop shade/overstory

Although  not  considered  overly  competitive  with  other 

plants, kukui’s dense shade limits its use as shade for light-

demanding crops.

Time to outplanting

Approximate size for outplanting

Trees  are  ready  to  outplant  when  they  have  attained  a 

height of about 25 cm (10 in) and stem diameter of 12 mm 

(0.5 in). 

  Aleurites moluccana (kukui)

Alley cropping

Although  kukui  will  regrow  after  severe  prun-

ing,  its  moderate  growth  rate  makes  it  unsuit-

able for frequent pruning for mulch in an alley 

cropping system.


Because  of  its  usefulness  and  beauty,  kukui  is 

grown in homegardens throughout the Pacific 

and elsewhere in the tropics.

Living fences/visual screen/boundary 


It  is  often  used  as  a  living  fence  or  bound-

ary  marker  in  Tonga,  Hawai‘i,  and  elsewhere. 

Planted densely as a double row on 2 x 2 m (6.5 

x 6.5 ft) or 3 x 3 m (10 x 10 ft) spacing, kukui 

makes a wonderful visual screen.


Kukui  makes  a  good  windbreak  component, 

particularly in a multi-row windbreak.


Kukui is widely used as an ornamental tree for 

its  thick  silvery-green  foliage. This  is  perhaps 

its most common use in cultivation.


With  its  innumerable  uses,  kukui  was  dis-

seminated  aboriginally  throughout  the  Pacific 

islands.  Virtually  all  parts  of  the  tree—leaves, 

fruits,  bark,  wood,  roots,  sap,  flowers,  etc.—

were useful for medicine, illumination, housing,  Kukui makes an excellent screen along roads and boundaries. Top: Privacy

dyes, food, ornamentation, and many other uses.  hedge along driveway. Bottom: Boundary hedge next to coffee plantation.

Even  today,  many  of  kukui’s  traditional  appli- photos: C. ElEvitCh

cations are still in use. During the 19th century 

kukui  oil  was  a  commercial  export  of  Hawai‘i, 

stomach or bowel disorder in children, asthma, bad breath, 

and it has recently been revitalized as a commercial prod-

skin  sores  or  ulcers,  “swollen  womb,”  and  rejuvenating 

uct there and elsewhere in the Pacific.

the body after poisoning (Kaaiakamanu and Akina 1922). 

Kukui  nut  oil  makes  a  strong  laxative  and  is  sometimes 


used like castor oil. The leaves have been used for poultices 

The  raw  seeds  are  toxic  and  have  a  strong  purgative  ef-

for deep contusions and swellings.

fect, but cooked seeds can be eaten sparingly, especially as 

a condiment. Some varieties, such one found in Vanuatu 


(Maewo), have no apparent toxic effect (Walter and Sam 

Hawaiians  have  traditionally  used  the  roasted,  pounded 


kukui  seed  kernel  mixed  with  salt  and  seaweed  or  chili 

peppers as a condiment called ‘inamona.


Folk  remedies  are  reported  for  general  weakness  due  to 

Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry (www.traditionaltree.org)  

Kukui is the official tree of the State of Hawai‘i be-

cause of “the multiplicity of its uses to the ancient Ha-

waiians for light, fuel, medicine, dye, and ornament, as 

well as the distinctive beauty of its light-green foliage 

which embellishes many of the slopes of our beloved 

mountains.” (Neal 1965)

kernels (traditionally used for illumination) is used for an 

indelible black dye in tattooing and tapa cloth, particularly 

in Samoa and Tonga (Whistler 1991).

Toxin/insecticide/fish poison

Kukui oil can protect cotton bolls from the boll weevil and 

prevent feeding by the striped cucumber beetle.


Oil extracted from the seed can be made into soap. Chewed 

seeds are used as a soap substitute. Refined kukui oil is to-

day widely sold in the cosmetic industry and may currently 

be kukui’s primary commercial product.


After removal of the oil, the remaining seed cake has been 

used for fertilizer.

Animal fodder

After removal of the oil, the remaining seed cake has been 

used for cattle fodder.


The  wood  is  straw  colored  and  very  light  weight  (sp.  gr. 

0.35). Because it is not resistant to decay or insect attack, it 

is rarely utilized for timber. The wood is readily colonized 

by fungi and has been used successfully as a substrate for 

growing  mushrooms,  particularly  the  ear  fungus  (Auricu-

laria sp.)  known  in  Hawai‘i  as  pepeiao.  After 

heavy rains, deadwood under kukui trees often 

has large quantities of edible fungus. 


The wood can be burned as a low-quality fuel.

Canoe/boat/raft making 

The  Hawaiians  used  the  easily  worked  wood 

for short-lived, light-weight canoes and fishnet 



A bark infusion with water was used by Hawai-

ians to preserve fishnets.


The  whitish  sap  was  painted  on  tapa  cloth  to 

make it more durable and waterproof.

Body ornamentation/garlands

The empty shells are strung to make a popular 

lei. The mature black seeds and immature white 

to brown seeds are commonly used in lei mak-

ing, polished and unpolished. The shells, which 

can be polished to a high luster, are fashioned 

into  earrings  and  other  costume  jewelry.  The 

leaves  with  or  without  the  flower  clusters  are 

woven into impressive leis.


Hawaiians used the seed husk to make a black 

dye for tattooing and the root bark to make a  Due to its light weight, poor durability, and crooked form, the wood is

dye to paint canoes. The soot from burned seed  rarely used for timber. photo: C. ElEvitCh

10  Aleurites moluccana (kukui)


Oil  extracted  from  the  seeds  was  traditionally 

used  by  Hawaiians  as  a  preservative  for  surf-

boards.  The  oil  can  also  be  used  as  a  basis  for 

paint or varnish, burned as an illuminant, made 

into soap, and used for waterproofing paper. To-

day kukui nut oil is marketed as a skin moistur-

izer and protectant. With chemical modification 

the  oil  can  also  be  burned  as  fuel  in  diesel  en-



The oily kernels are dried and strung on a skewer 

such as a coconut leaf midrib. Each nut in the 

string  burns  for  about  3  minutes  and  emits  a 

somewhat fragrant smoke.

Ceremonial/religious importance 

The  likeness  of  a  pig’s  head  carved  from  kukui 

wood is set on an altar for the Hawaiian festival 

of Makahiki (Kamehameha Schools 1994).


The  seeds  have  been  used  as  toys  such  as  mar-

bles and tops. The crushed seeds have been used 

mixed with other ingredients as fish bait (Abbot 




Kukui is found in homegardens and community 

areas throughout the tropics. It has many tradi-

tional  products  for  home  use  such  as  a  condi-

ment, medicines, dye, and utility wood. The tree 

is also highly prized for its amenity services in-

cluding shade, living fence, and ornament.

Kukui  typically  reaches  10–15  m  (33–50  ft)  tall 

with  a  broad  canopy  when  grown  in  the  open, 

with  dense  foliage  often  growing  down  to  the 

ground.  When  grown  in  the  shade  of  nearby 

trees,  kukui  grows  more  upright,  with  a  domi-

nant main stem and little side foliage. Trunk di-

ameter at maturity can reach 1.5 m (5 ft). The tree 

tolerates pruning very well and can be controlled 

in size and shape as desired. 

Size in an urban environment

Top: The kukui kernel has numerous uses including medicine, condiment,

and a basis for oil and soap. Bottom: The sap which wells up at the stem

Rate of growth in a landscape

attachment just after harvesting young kukui fruits is used traditionally by

In favorable conditions young trees can grow 1–2  Hawaiians to treat cuts and skin sores. photos: C. ElEvitCh

Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry (www.traditionaltree.org)  11

m/yr (3.3–6.6 ft) in height. As trees grow older, the rate of 

growth declines. 

There is no indication of the root system interfering with 

other plants, pipes, or structures. 

Water/soil requirements

Root system

The tree grows in a wide variety of soils, including infertile 

soils. It requires free drainage. 

There is no data available, but kukui trees are estimated to 

live 40–60 years.

Life span

Various parts of the plants are used in traditional medicine 

throughout  Oceania  (Thaman  and  Whistler  1996,  Whis-

tler 2000, Walter and Sam 2002). A black dye used to dye 

tapa  cloth  is  made  from  the  fruit,  bark,  or  roots.  Leaves, 

flowers, and seeds are used in making leis in Hawai‘i. The 

leaves and young branches are considered to be an excel-

lent mulch material and were formerly used to mulch taro 

in Hawai‘i. Many more uses are listed in “Uses and prod-

ucts” above.

The  flavorful  but  somewhat  toxic  kernels  are  consumed 

to  varying  degrees  throughout  the  Pacific.  In  Hawai‘i 

the  seeds  are  traditionally  roasted  and  crushed  together 

with sea salt to prepare a condiment called ‘inamona. The 

crushed, roasted kernel is frequently used in small quanti-

ties  in  Indonesian  and  Malaysian  cuisine.  In  Samoa  the 

kernels are eaten by children, although more than 2–3 ker-

nels can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pains, or diar-


Products commonly used in a Pacific island


Varieties favored for use in homegardens or public


There  are  many  forms  found  regionally  (see  “Variability” 

above). These  selections  would  be  favored  for  home  and 

village gardens.

In optimal conditions with ample moisture available, leaf 

flush, flowering, and fruiting are nearly continuous. 

The silver-gray foliage stands out in the landscape. Kukui 

is also recognizable by its domed and dense canopy. Trees 

are often in flower; the white to cream-colored flowers are 

attractive and slightly fragrant.

Given  ample  sunlight  and  space,  kukui’s  dense  crown 

makes a very good visual barrier, particularly since foliage 

tends to extend down to the ground. A row of trees planted 

3–5 m (10–16 ft) apart forms a solid canopy.

Seasonality of leaf flush, flowering, fruiting

Exceptional ornamental values

Use as living fence, hedge or visual/noise barrier

Light requirements

Kukui prefers full sun and grows more upright and spindly 

in partial shade.


Many types of birds find shelter in the kukui canopy.

Left: In open areas, the foliage usually extends down to the ground. Right: When pruned up, the area under the canopy makes

a wonderful sitting area. photos: C. ElEvitCh

1  Aleurites moluccana (kukui)

Young  seedlings  benefit  from  regular  weeding  and  irri-

gation  if  necessary.  Once  established,  trees  require  little 

care. Kukui does not require fertilizer except in the most 

infertile  soils.  It  tolerates  drought  but  will  grow  best  in 

consistently moist conditions. The dense canopy tends to 

suppress  weed  growth  within  the  drip  line.  The  tree  re-

grows well after pruning. If desired, lower branches can be 

pruned up along the perimeter to open a view underneath 

the canopy. The tree can also be pollarded to control the 

height and canopy diameter (Salim et al. nd). In pollarding, 

a framework of several stems is formed at a desired height 

by  pruning  the  tree  during  its  early  development. These 

stems are then pruned back heavily every 2–3 years. 

Maintenance requirements

A  suggested  spacing  for  oil  production  is  200  trees/ha, 

which can be achieved with a spacing of about 7 x 7 m (23 

x 23 ft) or 6 x 8 m (20 x 26 ft).


Management objectives and design consider-


Kukui  holds  its  branches  very  well  in  normal  conditions 

and even in storms. The ground beneath the trees is often 

covered with fruits and seeds.

Special considerations regarding leaf, branch, and

fruit drop

Seeds  can  be  harvested  from  the  ground,  although  the 

heavy leaf mulch usually found under kukui trees hinders 

harvesting  the  fallen  seeds.  Picking  seeds  from  the  trees 

is often impractical due to the height and the difficulty of 

judging maturity of the ripening fruit. The propensity of 

kukui to grow well on steep slopes may be used to some 

advantage, as the large spherical fruits can roll to collection 

areas if designed properly.


Nuisance issues



Newly fallen fruits are hard and round, about the size of 

golf  balls.  They  present  a  real  danger  on  streets  or  side-

walks where people could easy slip on them.

Pests or diseases rarely seriously affect kukui. There are no 

pests of economic importance (Siemonsma 1999).

Common pest problems

For tropical plantations with trees spaced at 200 trees/ha 

(81 trees/acre), nut yields were reported as 80 kg/tree (176 

lb/tree), or 16 mt/ha/yr (7.1 t/ac/yr), of which 3 mt (3.3 t) 

would  be  oil  Given  a  spacing  of  200  trees/ha  and  an  ex-

pected yield of approximately 80 kg of seeds per tree per 

year,  about  16  mt/ha/yr  can  be  produced.  About  20%  of 

this  yield  can  be  extracted  as  oil,  which  is  equivalent  to 

3.2  mt/ha  (1.5  t/ac)  of  unrefined  oil  per  year. The  current 

retail value (year end 2003) of kukui nut oil is about $43/kg 

($19.50/lb). This  represents  a  considerable  potential  retail 

value per hectare for the processed oil, and an incentive to 

investigate value-added processing methods. The residues 

can be converted to alcohol. Fruit yields range between 4 

and 20 mt/ha/yr (1.8–8.9 t/ac/yr) and an oil yield of 3100 

kg/ha (2760 lb/ac) has been reported (suitable, with modi-

fication, for diesel uses) (Duke 1983).

Removing the outer husk and drying to ca. 12–15% mois-

ture  should  be  carried  out  on-farm.  This  stabilizes  the 

seeds (prevents fungal growth and insect infestation) and 

prepares them for pressing.

Kukui nut oil is marketed widely through health food stores 

and on the Internet. Market volumes are not known.


The widespread cultivation of kukui has traditionally been 

for its many non-commercial uses. At one time the seed oil 

was used as a basis for varnishes and paint, although the 

oil derived from tung (Aleurites fordii) is superior for these 

uses. In more recent times, the primary commercial prod-

uct derived from kukui is the oil extracted from the seed 

for the cosmetic industry. The oil is rich in polyunsaturated 

oils (linolenic, oleic, and various linoleic acids), and is said 

to have a high penetrability and soothing effect on dry or 

sunburned skin and other skin maladies such as psoriasis, 

acne, and eczema. Most oil produced in India, Sri Lanka, 

and other places is consumed locally and does not find its 

way into international trade.

On-farm processing methods




Some interplanting systems include:

Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry (www.traditionaltree.org)  1

Example 1


Keauhou, North Kona, Hawai‘i.


This project is a 2.4 ha (6 ac) orchard planted in 1993. The 

elevation is 230 m (700 ft) and rainfall ca. 1040 mm (45 in) 

annually. The purpose is a visual screen.

Crop/tree interactions

The  interior  of  the  property  was  planted  with  avocados, 

mango,  and  sapodilla  trees.  The  kukui  afforded  modest 

protection from the periodic storm winds.

Spacing/density of species

The  outer  boundary  was  planted  with  a  double  row  of 

kukui trees 2.6 m (8 ft) apart within rows and 2.6 m (8 ft) 

between rows.

Example 2


Located  at  the  Moloka‘i  Research  and  Demonstration 

Farm  in  the  Ho‘olehua  Ag  Park,  Moloka‘i,  Hawai‘i. The 

project is planted on 0.15 ha (0.36 ac).


This project is called, “A Demonstration of a Multi-Crop-

ping System in Establishing and Producing Native Trees” 

(Arce  2003).  Five  rows  of  trees were  planted  in  a  north-

south orientation with six kukui trees in each row. There is 

4.6 m (15 ft) between rows to accommodate the tractor for 

mowing the area between rows. In addition to the growth 

rate of the kukui and other trees, the project measured the 

performance of understory crops such as alfalfa, ginger and 

anthuriums for cut flowers, kava, edible fungus, and cacao. 

Alfalfa  was  successfully  grown  during  the  early  years,  be-

fore the kukui trees shaded the surrounding area too much. 

Kukui’s natural habit of dropping its branches and many 

falling nuts posed a hazard to understory crops such as the 

flowers. Ear fungus, a popular edible fungus known in Ha-

waiian as pepeiao, was introduced to kukui logs which were 

set in piles between the trees. Small amounts of edible fun-

gus were produced, which could probably be increased by 

improved mycoculture techniques.

Trees were planted at 3 m (10 ft) between trees, 4.6 m (15 

ft) between rows.

Kali Arce shows her kukui trees in an agroforestry demon-

stration project in Ho‘olehua, Moloka‘i, Hawai‘i. photo: J. B. 




Extension offices for agroforestry and forestry in the 

Pacific: http://www.traditionaltree.org/extension.html


(☛ indicates recommended reading)

Abbott,  I.A.  1992.  Lā‘au  Hawai‘i—Traditional  Hawaiian 

Uses of Plants. Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu.

Anonymous.  Undated  [1].  Aleurites moluccana. 

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