Aleurites moluccanus

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(Redirected from Candlenut)

Candlenut foliage, flowers, and nut
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Genus: Aleurites
A. moluccanus
Binomial name
Aleurites moluccanus

Aleurites javanicus Gand.
Aleurites moluccana[3]
Aleurites pentaphyllus Wall. ex Langeron
Aleurites remyi Sherff
Aleurites trilobus J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.
Jatropha moluccana L.[4]

Aleurites moluccanus, 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, godou, kukui nut tree, and rata kekuna.


The candlenut grows to a height of up to 30 m (98 ft), with wide spreading or pendulous branches. The leaves are pale green, simple, and ovate or heart-shaped on mature shoots, but may be three-, five-, or seven-lobed on saplings.[5] They are up to 20 cm (7.9 in) long and 13 cm (5.1 in) wide and young leaves are densely clothed in rusty or cream stellate hairs. Petioles measure up to 12.5 cm (4.9 in) long and stipules about 5 mm (0.20 in).[6]

Flowers are small—male flowers measure around 5 mm (0.20 in) in diameter, female flowers about 9 mm (0.35 in).[6]

The fruit is a drupe about 4–6 cm (1.6–2.4 in) in diameter with one or two lobes; each lobe has a single soft, white, oily, kernel contained within a hard shell which is about 2 cm (0.79 in) in diameter.[5] The kernel is the source of candlenut oil.[7]


This plant was first described by Carl Linnaeus in his work Species Plantarum (Sp. Pl. 2: 1006 (1753)) in 1753 as Jatropha moluccana.[8] It was renamed as Aleurites moluccana in 1805 by Carl Ludwig Willdenow in a later edition of Species Plantarum (Sp. Pl. 4: 590 (1805)),[3] but the ending was corrected to match the gender of the Latin genus Aleurites moluccanus.


While there are many online references to the name "Aleurites moluccana", this is not a name that is accepted by botanic authorities such as the International Plant Names Index (IPNI) or the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN).


The genus name derives from the Ancient Greek ἄλευρον (áleuron), meaning "flour" or "meal", and refers to the new growth which appears to be dusted with flour. The species epithet means "from the Moluccas".[5]

Distribution and habitat[edit]


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.

The candlenut was first domesticated on the islands of 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.[9] 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.[10][11] Candlenuts were widely introduced into the Pacific islands by early Austronesian voyagers and became naturalized to high volcanic islands.[12][13][14]


A. moluccanus grows in tropical rainforests and gallery forests. It is a very fast-growing tree and often appears in disturbed rainforest. In Australia the altitudinal range is from sea level to 800 m (2,600 ft).[6]


In Australia the seeds are eaten by rodents, in particular the giant white-tailed rat. The broken shells of the fruits are often found underneath the trees.[6]

The larvae of the coleopteran Agrianome fairmairei feed on dead candlenut wood,[15] and are considered a delicacy in New Caledonia.[16]


The Proto-Austronesian word for candlenut is reconstructed as *kamiri, with modern cognates including Hanunó'o, Iban, and Sundanese muncang; Javanese and Malay kemiri;[17] and Tetun kamii, however the Oceanian words for candlenut is believed to be derived 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.[18]

The Malay language in both has another name given to the nut which is buah keras (literally "hard fruit").[19][20]


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

Both the nut and the oil that can be extracted from it are used. While mildly toxic when raw,[21] the nut is appreciated in many cultures once cooked or toasted. In Indonesian and Malaysian cuisine, it is commonly used in curries,[20] and on the Indonesian island of Java, it is used to make a thick sauce that is eaten with vegetables and rice.[22]

Wealthier members among the Batak people have their coffins (Karo: pelangkah) made from the wood of Aleurites moluccanus, carved in the shape of a boat whose bow is decorated with the carved head of a hornbill, a horse, or a mythical beast known as a singa.[citation needed]

In the Philippines, the fruit and tree are traditionally known as lumbang,[23] after which Lumban, a lakeshore town in Laguna province, is named. Before the intrusion of non-native species, it was frequently used as a property-line manager, because its silvery underleaf makes the tree easy to distinguish from a distance.[24]

In the state of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, the Dusun tribes call the fruit godou and use it in tattoo-making as an optional ingredient for the ink.[25]

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.[26]

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 fifteen minutes or so. This led to their use as a measure of time. Hawaiians 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.[27]

Hawaiians 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).[27] The nohona waʻa (seats) and pale (gunwales) of waʻa (outrigger canoes) were made from the wood.[28] The trunk was sometimes used to make smaller canoes used for fishing.[29] Kukui was named the state tree of Hawaii on 1 May 1959[30] due to its multitude of uses.[31] It also represents the island of Molokaʻi, whose symbolic color is the silvery green of the kukui leaf.[citation needed]

As recently as 1993 on the outlying islands of the kingdom of Tonga, candlenuts were chewed into sweet-scented emollient used during a traditional funerary ritual. They were used for making various sweet-smelling oils for the skin.[32]

In Australia, Aboriginal Australians used them for a variety of similar purposes.[33][34][35]

In Uganda, the seed is referred to as kabakanjagala, meaning "the king loves me".[36]

In Fiji, this nut is called sikeci and its oil is used in cosmetic products.[37]


Because the seeds contain saponin, phorbol, and toxalbumins they are mildly toxic when raw.[21][38] However, heat treatment reduces the toxicity of the protein component.[38] The kukui seed oil has no known toxicity and is not an irritant, even to the eyes.[39][better source needed]


In Maui, the kukui is a symbol of enlightenment, protection, and peace.[40] Kamapuaʻa, the hog-man fertility demigod, was said to be able to transform into a kukui tree.[41] 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 also[edit]


  1. ^ Rivers, M.C.; Barstow, M.; Mark, J. (2017). "Aleurites moluccanus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2017: e.T18435618A18435622. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T18435618A18435622.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  2. ^ "Aleurites moluccanus". International Plant Names Index. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  3. ^ a b von, Linné, Carl; Ludwig, Willdenow, Karl (10 September 2018). Caroli a Linné(1805); Species Plantarum Edn. 4, 4(1): 590. ISBN 9780665553387.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ "Aleurites moluccanus". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2009-11-15.
  5. ^ a b c Cooper, Wendy; Cooper, William T. (2004). Fruits of the Australian Tropical Rainforest. Melbourne, Australia: Nokomis Editions. p. 171. ISBN 0-9581742-1-0.
  6. ^ a b c d F.A.Zich; B.P.M.Hyland; T.Whiffen; R.A.Kerrigan (2020). "Aleurites moluccanus". Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants Edition 8 (RFK8). Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research (CANBR), Australian Government. Retrieved 7 June 2021.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ "Jatropha moluccana". International Plant Names Index. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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. Vol. 48. ANU Press. pp. 171–189. doi:10.22459/TA48.11.2018.11. ISBN 9781760462574. S2CID 134786275.
  12. ^ 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. S2CID 28192073.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ 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. S2CID 29664192.
  15. ^ "Catalogue of Life : Agrianome fairmairei (Montrouzier, 1861)".
  16. ^ "Fête du ver de bancoul (Evénements > Thèmes locaux)".
  17. ^ For comparison:
    • "kemiri". Kamus Dewan (4th ed.). Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Malaysia. 2017.
    • "kemiri". Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia (3rd ed.). Badan Pengembangan dan Pembinaan Bahasa, Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan Republik Indonesia. 2016.
    • "kemiri". Kamus Melayu Riau-Indonesia. Balai Bahasa Sumatera Utara Badan Pengembangan dan Pembinaan Bahasa Republik Indonesia. 2018. p. 194.
    • "kemiri". Kamus Melayu Sumatera Utara-Indonesia. Balai Bahasa Sumatera Utara Badan Pengembangan dan Pembinaan Bahasa Republik Indonesia. 2018. p. 125.
  18. ^ 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. S2CID 146739541.
  19. ^ * "buah keras". Kamus Dewan (ke-4 ed.). Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Malaysia. 2017.
    • "buah keras". Kamus Melayu Riau-Indonesia. Balai Bahasa Sumatera Utara Badan Pengembangan dan Pembinaan Bahasa Republik Indonesia. 2018. p. 194.
  20. ^ a b Hean Chooi Ong (2008). Rempah ratus: khasiat makanan & ubatan. Kuala Lumpur: Utusan Publications. pp. 84–85. ISBN 9789676121059.
  21. ^ a b 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.
  22. ^ Lim, T. K. (2012), Lim, T. K. (ed.), "Aleurites moluccanus", Edible Medicinal And Non-Medicinal Plants: Volume 2, Fruits, Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, pp. 465–471, doi:10.1007/978-94-007-1764-0_61, ISBN 978-94-007-1764-0, retrieved 2021-04-22
  23. ^ metscaper (Patrick Gozon) (12 November 2008). "Learning the Trees that Places were Named after". Our Philippine Trees. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ Lindung, Malinggou (2016) Lahan Mongimpapak Kadazan-Dusun. Kadazan Language Foundation, Sabah (in Kadazan)
  26. ^ Laudan, Rachel (1996). The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii's Culinary Heritage. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 37–38. ISBN 9780824817787. Retrieved 2017-01-28.
  27. ^ a b "Candlenut Tree Provides More Than Light". Big Island Now. September 9, 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-09-17. Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  28. ^ Krauss, Beatrice H. (1993). "Chapter 4: Canoes". Plants in Hawaiian Culture. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 50–51. ISBN 9780824812256.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ Kepler, Angela Kay (1998). Hawaiian Heritage Plants. University of Hawaii Press. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-8248-1994-1.
  31. ^ Elevitch, Craig R.; Harley I. Manner (April 2006), Aleurites moluccana (kukui) (PDF), The Traditional Tree Initiative: Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry, Honolulu: Permanent Agriculture Resources, p. 10
  32. ^ Morrison, R. Bruce; Wilson, C. Roderick, eds. (2002), Ethnographic Essays in Cultural Anthropology, Bellmont, CA: F.E. Peacock Publishers, p. 18, ISBN 0-87581-445-X
  33. ^ "Candlenut tree: Aboriginal Use of Native Plants". Archived from the original on 10 August 2016. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  34. ^ "Candle Nut". Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  35. ^ J. H. Maiden (1889). The useful native plants of Australia : Including Tasmania. Turner and Henderson, Sydney.
  36. ^ Cultural Impressions Archived 2014-10-06 at the Wayback Machine
  37. ^ "Native Plant Network — Reforestation, Nurseries and Genetics Resources". Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  38. ^ a b Bilang, Mariyati; Mamang, Mamang; Salengke, Salengke; Putra, Reski Praja; Reta, Reta (2018-12-31). "Elimination of toxalbumin in candlenut seed (Aleurites moluccana (L.) Willd) using wet heating at high temperature and identification of compounds in the candlenut glycoprotein". International Journal of Agriculture System. 6 (2): 89–100. doi:10.20956/ijas.v6i2.649. ISSN 2580-6815.
  39. ^ Price, Len. Carrier Oils For Aromatherapy And Massage, 4th edition 2008 p 119. ISBN 1-874353-02-6
  40. ^ Moore, Jason (January 2006). "The tree of light". Maui Magazine. Archived from the original on 2017-09-14. Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  41. ^ 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 links[edit]