The candlenut tree is native to tropical Asia and was introduced to Polynesia by prehistoric settlers; it is widely cultivated by being grown from seed, but is sometimes locally naturalised in mixed damp forests. The tree grows to 15 metres tall and can be cultivated in a wide range of tropical environments. The most-used part of the plant is the fruit, which is rich in oil. Both the whole nuts (with shell removed) and the oil could be burnt for lighting; the oil also has medicinal and cosmetic uses. The soot from the burnt fruits is an important black dye used in many islands of Polynesia and Fiji for tattooing and for colouring tapa. The sap of the tree is an important base for several red-brown dyes.
candlenut; Tonga, Niue, Futuna, ʽUvea, Cook Islands: tuitui; Society Islands: tiʽaʽiri, tuitui; Hawai‘i: kukui; Fiji: lauci, tuitui; Samoa: lama
soot collected from the flames of burning nuts
Entry created on 28 August 2020