Hawaii is famous for its rich landscapes and lush foliage, and the warm tropical climate encourages the growth of many varieties of trees. In addition to adding beauty to the area, many Hawaiian trees are valued for their commercial and medicinal purposes. While some of the more common Hawaiian trees are indigenous to the region, many varieties have been naturalized from other parts of the world.
The koa tree (Acacia koa) is valued for its extraordinarily beautiful hardwood, which can only be found in Hawaii, making this tree an extremely important natural resource. Wood from a koa tree comes in a variety of warm colors, including yellow, red, orange and gold, and is often used to make bowls, cabinets, canoes and floors. In addition to providing valuable timber, this hardwood tree is also an important part of the rainforests of Hawaii, providing nitrogen as well as foliage for bird habitation. Koa is an evergreen tree that blooms small light-yellow puffy flowers. Koa is the tallest tree variety in Hawaii, often growing up to heights of several hundred feet and reaching a diameter of 10 feet, according to the Instant Hawaii website. The tree grows fastest and best in areas with a great deal of rain and well-drained soil and is typically found at elevations above 2,000 feet. Koa grows on each of the main islands, with the exception of Ni'ihau and Kaho'olawe. The number of koa trees is decreasing rapidly in Hawaii, making koa an endangered natural resource. Because of this, it is against the law to cut down a healthy koa tree, and lumber and wood can only be obtained from a dead tree.
Noni (Morinda citrifolia) is a naturalized tree that can be found on all of the main islands of Hawaii. This evergreen tree is easily recognized by its large, shiny green foliage and bumpy white fruits. The noni tree typically reaches a height of about 10 feet and has large leaves than can grow longer than 8 inches. It grows best in consistently wet soil and can be found at sea level and into elevations of up to 1,500 feet, according to the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The noni tree is also commonly found along roadsides and highways. Interestingly, the noni tree bears fruit 365 days a year, and as the fruit begins to ripen and turn from yellow to white, it begins to emit a very strong, unpleasant odor. The noni tree's fruit and juice are valued for their many medicinal purposes, including treatment of gastrointestinal problems, heart ailments, insomnia, high blood pressure, depression, diabetes and skin cancer. The leaves are often used to make tea, as well as turned into a liquid and consumed as a remedy for muscle pain and urinary problems, according to the Canoe Plants website.
The kukui nut (Aleurites mollucana), also referred to as the candlenut tree, is the state tree of Hawaii. The kukui nut tree, with its distinctive gray trunk and powdery greenish-silver foliage, is the most common Hawaiian tree, most frequently found growing on lower mountain slopes, valleys and gulches. It can be found on all of the Hawaiian islands. This tree, which can grow in excess of 80 feet in height, blooms fragrant white flowers. It also produces small green fruits, usually about 2 inches in diameter, that turn brown as they ripen, according to the Islands Lotion website. Originally introduced into the region from Polynesia, this tree is valued for its seeds, which are used in commercial products, such as waterproofing materials, soaps and varnishes. The oil is also used to make lotions and treat skin conditions, including eczema and psoriasis, according to the Natural Elements website. The nuts and bark are often used to make dyes. Typically, the Hawaiian people have much use for the oil and primarily sell it locally, with only a small amount being used for international revenue.