Open main menu

Aleurites moluccanus

  (Redirected from Candlenut)

Aleurites moluccanus (or moluccana[2]), the candlenut, is a flowering tree in the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae, also known as candleberry, Indian walnut, kemiri, varnish tree, nuez de la India, buah keras, or kukui nut tree, and Kekuna tree.

Starr 020803-0119 Aleurites moluccana.jpg
Candlenut foliage, flowers, and nut
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Genus: Aleurites
A. moluccanus
Binomial name
Aleurites moluccanus

Aleurites javanicus Gand.
Aleurites moluccana[2]
Aleurites pentaphyllus Wall. ex Langeron
Aleurites remyi Sherff
Aleurites trilobus J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.
Jatropha moluccana L.[3]

Its native range is impossible to establish precisely because of early spread by humans, and the tree is now distributed throughout the New and Old World tropics. It grows to a height of 15–25 m (49–82 ft), with wide spreading or pendulous branches. The leaves are pale green, simple, and ovate, or trilobed or rarely five-lobed, with an acute apex, 10–20 cm (3.9–7.9 in) long. The nut is round, 4–6 cm (1.6–2.4 in) in diameter; the seed shell has white, oily, and fleshy kernel that contains a thin embryo surrounded by an endosperm. Its kernel serves as the source of oil, and is covered with a thin layer of secondary seed coat.[4]


The candlenut was first domesticated in island Southeast Asia. Remains of harvested candlenuts have been recovered from archaeological sites in Timor and Morotai in eastern Indonesia, dated to around 13,000 and 11,000 BP, respectively. [5] Archaeological evidence of candlenut cultivation is also found in Neolithic sites of the Toalean culture in southern Sulawesi dated to around 3,700 to 2,300 BP.[6][7] Candlenuts were widely introduced into the Pacific islands by early Austronesian voyagers and became naturalized to high volcanic islands.[8][9][10]

The Proto-Austronesian word for candlenut is reconstructed as *kamiri, with modern cognates including Hanunó'o, Iban, and Sundanese kamiri; Javanese and Malay kemiri; and Tetun kamii, but the Oceanian words for candlenut is believed to be derived, instead, from Proto-Austronesian *CuSuR which became Proto-Malayo-Polynesian *tuhuR, originally meaning "string together, as beads", referring to the construction of the candlenut torches. It became Proto-Eastern-Malayo-Polynesian and Proto-Oceanic *tuRi which is then reduplicated. Modern cognates including Fijian, Tongan, Rarotongan, and Niue tui-tui; and Hawaiian kui-kui or kukui.[11]


Women in East Timor are preparing candlenut sticks to illuminate a local festival

The nut is often used cooked in Indonesian and Malaysian cuisine, where it is called kemiri in Indonesian or buah keras in Malay. On the island of Java in Indonesia, it is used to make a thick sauce that is eaten with vegetables and rice.

In the Philippines, the fruit and tree are traditionally known as lumbang[12] after which Lumban, a lakeshore town in Laguna is named. Before the intrusion of non-native species, it was frequently used as a property-line manager, because its silvery underleaf made the tree easy to distinguish from a distance.[13]

Outside of Southeast Asia, macadamia seeds are sometimes substituted for candlenuts when they are not available, as they have a similarly high oil content and texture when pounded. The flavor, however, is quite different, as the candlenut is much more bitter. At least one cultivar in Costa Rica has no bitterness, and an improvement program could likely produce an important food crop if nontoxic varieties can be selected and propagated. A Hawaiian condiment known as ʻinamona is made from roasted kukui (candlenuts) mixed into a paste with salt. ʻInamona is a key ingredient in traditional Hawaiian poke.

In ancient Hawaiʻi, kukui nuts were burned to provide light. The nuts were strung in a row on a palm leaf midrib, lit on one end, and burned one by one every 15 minutes or so. This led to their use as a measure of time. Hawaiians also extracted the oil from the nut and burned it in a stone oil lamp called a kukui hele po (light, darkness goes) with a wick made of kapa cloth.

Hawaiians also had many other uses for the tree, including: leis from the shells, leaves, and flowers; ink for tattoos from charred nuts; a varnish with the oil; and fishermen would chew the nuts and spit them on the water to break the surface tension and remove reflections, giving them greater underwater visibility. A red-brown dye made from the inner bark was used on kapa and aho (Touchardia latifolia cordage). A coating of kukui oil helped preserve ʻupena (fishing nets).[citation needed] The nohona waʻa (seats), pale (gunwales) of waʻa (outrigger canoes) were made from the wood.[14] The trunk was sometimes used to make smaller canoes used for fishing.[15] Kukui was named the state tree of Hawaii on 1 May 1959[16] due to its multitude of uses.[17] It also represents the island of Molokaʻi, whose symbolic color is the silvery green of the kukui leaf.[citation needed]

As recently as 1993, candlenuts were chewed into sweet-scented emollient used during a traditional funerary ritual in the outlying islands of the kingdom of Tonga. Their scent was also used for making various sweet-smelling oils for the skin.[18]

In Australia, aborigines also used them for a variety of similar purposes.[19][20][21]

Dead wood of candlenut is eaten by a larva of a coleopteran called Agrianome fairmairei.[22] This larva is eaten by some people.[23]

Modern cultivation is mostly for the oil. In plantations, each tree produces 30–80 kg (66–176 lb) of nuts, and the nuts yield 15 to 20% of their weight in oil. Most of the oil is used locally rather than figuring in international trade.

In Uganda, the seed is referred to as kabakanjagala, meaning "the king loves me"[24] and is traditionally used as an improvised toy to play a marbles game fondly called dool(oo).

In Fiji, this nut is called sikeci and its oil is used in cosmetic products.


Because the seeds contain saponin and phorbol, they are mildly toxic when raw.[25] However, the kukui seed oil has no known toxicity and is not an irritant, even to the eyes.[26]


In Maui, the kukui is a symbol of enlightenment, protection, and peace.[citation needed] Kamapuaʻa, the hog-man fertility demigod, was said to be able to transform into a kukui tree.[27] One of the legends told of Kamapuaʻa: one day, a man beat his wife to death and buried her beneath Kamapuaʻa while he was in tree form.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Aleurites moluccanus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2019.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. 2019. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  2. ^ a b von,, Linné, Carl; Ludwig,, Willdenow, Karl (10 September 2018). "Caroli a Linné(1805); Species Plantarum Edn. 4, 4(1): 590". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  3. ^ "Aleurites moluccanus". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2009-11-15.
  4. ^ Razal, Ramon; Palijon, Armando (2009). Non-Wood Forest Products of the Philippines. Calamba City, Laguna: El Guapo Printing Press. p. 67. ISBN 978-971-579-058-1.
  5. ^ Blench, Roger (2004). "Fruits and arboriculture in the Indo-Pacific region". Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association. 24 (The Taipei Papers (Volume 2)): 31–50.
  6. ^ Simanjuntak, Truman (2006). "Advancement of Research on the Austronesian in Sulawesi". In Simanjuntak, Truman; Hisyam, M.; Prasetyo, Bagyo; Nastiti, Titi Surti (eds.). Archaeology: Indonesian Perspective : R.P. Soejono's Festschrift. Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI). pp. 223–231. ISBN 9789792624991.
  7. ^ Hasanuddin (2018). "Prehistoric sites in Kabupaten Enrekang, South Sulawesi". In O'Connor, Sue; Bulbeck, David; Meyer, Juliet (eds.). The Archaeology of Sulawesi: Current Research on the Pleistocene to the Historic Period. terra australis. 48. ANU Press. pp. 171–189. doi:10.22459/TA48.11.2018.11. ISBN 9781760462574.
  8. ^ Larrue, Sébastien; Meyer, Jean-Yves; Chiron, Thomas (2010). "Anthropogenic Vegetation Contributions to Polynesia's Social Heritage: The Legacy of Candlenut Tree (Aleurites moluccana) Forests and Bamboo (Schizostachyum glaucifolium) Groves on the Island of Tahiti". Economic Botany. 64 (4): 329–339. doi:10.1007/s12231-010-9130-3.
  9. ^ Weisler, Marshall I.; Mendes, Walter P.; Hua, Quan (2015). "A prehistoric quarry/habitation site on Moloka'i and a discussion of an anomalous early date on the Polynesian introduced candlenut (kukui, Aleurites moluccana)". Journal of Pacific Archaeology. 6 (1): 37–57.
  10. ^ Kirch, Patrick V. (1989). "Second Millennium B.C. Arboriculture in Melanesia: Archaeological Evidence from the Mussau Islands". Economic Botany. 43 (2): 225–240. doi:10.1007/bf02859865.
  11. ^ Blust, Robert; Trussel, Stephen (2013). "The Austronesian Comparative Dictionary: A Work in Progress". Oceanic Linguistics. 52 (2): 493–523. doi:10.1353/ol.2013.0016.
  12. ^ metscaper (Patrick Gozon) (12 November 2008). "Learning the Trees that Places were Named after". Our Philippine Trees. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  13. ^ Philippine Native Trees 101: Up Close and Personal. Green Convergence for Safe Food, Healthy Environment and Sustainable Economy. 2012-01-01. p. 337. ISBN 9789719546900.
  14. ^ Krauss, Beatrice H. (1993). "Chapter 4: Canoes". Plants in Hawaiian Culture. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 50–51.
  15. ^ Dunford, Betty; Lilinoe Andrews; Mikiala Ayau; Liana I. Honda; Julie Stewart Williams (2002). Hawaiians of Old (3 ed.). Bess Press. p. 122. ISBN 978-1-57306-137-7.
  16. ^ Kepler, Angela Kay (1998). Hawaiian Heritage Plants. University of Hawaii Press. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-8248-1994-1.
  17. ^ Elevitch, Craig R.; Harley I. Manner (April 2006). "Aleurites moluccana (kukui)" (PDF). The Traditional Tree Initiative: 10. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  18. ^ Morrison, R. Bruce and C. Roderick Wilson, eds. (2002) Ethnographic Essays in Cultural Anthropology. Bellmont, CA: Wadsworth. p. 18. ISBN 0-87581-445-X
  19. ^ "Candlenut tree: Aboriginal Use of Native Plants". Archived from the original on 10 August 2016. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  20. ^ "Candle Nut". Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  21. ^ J. H. Maiden (1889). The useful native plants of Australia : Including Tasmania. Turner and Henderson, Sydney.
  22. ^ "Catalogue of Life : Agrianome fairmairei (Montrouzier, 1861)".
  23. ^ "Fête du ver de bancoul (Evénements > Thèmes locaux)".
  24. ^ Cultural Impressions Archived 2014-10-06 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ Scott, Susan; Craig Thomas (2000). Poisonous Plants of Paradise: First Aid and Medical Treatment of Injuries from Hawaii's Plants. University of Hawaii Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-8248-2251-4.
  26. ^ Price, Len. Carrier Oils For Aromatherapy And Massage, 4th edition 2008 p 119. ISBN 1-874353-02-6
  27. ^ Mower, Nancy Alpert (2001). "Kamapuaʻa: A Hawaiian Trickster". In Jeanne Campbell Reesman (ed.). Trickster Lives: Culture and Myth in American Fiction. University of Georgia Press. p. 16. ISBN 978-0-8203-2277-3.

External linksEdit