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Clark, B - Kamani tree

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 8 months ago

        Imagine yourself sitting on the beautiful sandy shores of Hawaii underneath a large shady tree with a unique shape. The tree provides the only shade in sight and the fragrant white flowers, irregularly shaped branches, and large round nuts make it so that the tree can be distinguished from miles away. This tree is one that few people ever come in contact with, in fact most people only dream of sitting under a tree of this caliber. The tree in which I am describing is the famous Hawaiian Kamani Tree, or Calophyllum inophyllum.


      The Kamani tree, which can grow to be twenty-five to sixty-five feet tall at maturity, is found only in the tropics including the Hawaiian and other Pacific islands and the Caribbean. It is mostly only in the Hawaiian tropical dry forest and coastal areas (Beauty leaf…updated 1993. Under optimal conditions the Kamani tree grows one meter in height each year; however, usually the tree grows more slowly with decrease in rainfall and when growing in an area of too much shade. This tree would never be found as an overstory tree as this tree casts a heavy shade (Beauty leaf…updated 1993. Due to the shallow root system, Kamani trees prefer to grow in sandy, well-drained soils and along the shores of beaches or coastal forests (Calophyllum inophyllum…updated 2006. However, due to this trees strong structure it can tolerate clay or rocky soils. These trees grow best in low elevation where the annual rainfall is forty to two hundred inches and where temperatures range from sixty-four to ninety-one degrees Fahrenheit (Beauty leaf..updated 1993. It cannot live within high elevations, cool areas, or very arid or shady conditions.






Above is the Kamani tree on the shores of Halo, Hawaii. The abnormal trunk and branches give thehttp://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/forestry/data/Species_Pages/Page_C.html)

tree a full horizontal shape. Acting as a size scale, the people next to the tree allow viewers to see the

full magnitude of the trees size! It is also evident through the picture of how little vegetation

surrounds the tree due to the Kamani trees huge roots and canopy.





       The Kamani tree contains a strong thick trunk that can grow up to three feet in diameter. Protruding from the mammoth trunk are large, gnarled branches that usually stretch horizontally. The tree contains large glossy elliptical leaves and releases a white milky sap from its branches (Calophyllum inophyllum…updated 2006. These trees are able to flower (usually four to fifteen flowers per tree) all year; however, most flowering occurs in late spring and early summer. The long sturdy stalks provide the large white flowers extra support in bearing the strong winds and rainfall (Beauty leaf…updated 1993. The flowers provide a lime fragrance that is easily identifiable to the Kamani tree (Rose 2006). Coming from the scientific name Calophyllum, meaning “beautiful leaf”, the leaves of the Kamani tree are a unique characteristic of this Hawaiian tree (Calophyllum inophyllum…updated 2006. These leaves are dark and shiny and are rounded at both the tip and the base and can grow four to eight inches long and up to four inches wide. The leaves are completely hairless as it grows in a moist environment (Allaby 1998) Borne only twice a year, light green fruits grow in large clusters and eventually fall from April to June and October to December.







Pictured is the flowers of the Kamani tree. They are large and white with a yellow and orange tint
in the inside of the flower. The leaves are smooth, shiny, and oblong and are fairly large in comparison to
the flowers. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/91314344@N00/367638782)

        Due to the trees unique form, it was once considered a sacred tree by the people of the tropics and was planted around religious land (Rose 2006). After the spread of Christianity the tree became less popular and was less evident throughout the islands (Calophyllum inophyllum…updated 2006 The Kamani tree is mentioned in famous native chants and planted around alters to ward off evil spirits. This tree was introduced to the tropics at the same time as natives introduced coconut, beach hibiscus, and Milo. As soon as people began to realize the many medicinal uses of the oils produced from the nuts more and more trees were planted along the coasts (Rose 2006). People used the oil of the nut to be used in burn victims and the quick healing of scars and certain animal bites (Rose 2006).


       The growth rate of the Kamani tree begins quickly, but slows after the first few years of the tree’s life. Kamani trees are easy to propagate by seed and can be dispersed by birds and bats. Although germination and initial growth is slow, seedlings are hardy and can withstand drought and dry conditions very well (Calophyllum inophyllum…updated 2006 They prefer full sun and tolerate wind, salt spray, and drought. Fresh seeds may keep for a few months stored cool and dry, usually with the husk removed. Sprout survival is fairly high and need to be protected from weeds within the first year of growth (Beauty leaf…updated 1993. These trees must be planted in open spaces as their roots spread as wide as the canopy does. This is obviously a problem for infrastructure and other plants in close proximity.


       Besides form the fact that Kamani trees symbolize most people’s utopian dream, they are useful ecologically and socially. The Kamani tree is host to crop pests and pathogens and a good tree for soil stabilization near the shorelines (Beauty leaf…updated 1993. Due to the large shade the tree casts, Kamani trees shade out fire-prone grasses and are planted for firebreaks in very dry areas. Another reason Kamani trees are predominantly planted in residential coastal areas is because of the tree’s tolerance of wind and salt spray in that it makes an ideal windbreak tree (Calophyllum inophyllum…updated 2006. The Kamani tree is important and common in Hawaii due to the native cultures and serves as a reminder to native’s to celebrate their ancestor roots and cultures (Rose 2006). There have even been problems from thieves stealing the trunk of the tree to sell for decorative purposes. This tree does not pose a threat in being an invasive species due to its slow growth and large seeds. It remains uncommon in areas outside of Hawaii.


      Because the Kamani tree is so vital to Hawaiian culture Jack Johnson, a famous Hawaiian singer-songwriter, got motivation from this tree to produce his album In Between Dreams in March 2005. In fact, his album cover is of himself picking a fruit off of a gigantic Kamani tree. He refers to this tree several times throughout the album as being a peaceful refugee in which he can be “sheltered under the Kamani tree” as the “the west winds often last too long” (song entitled “Constellations” by Jack Johnson). So why did I pick the Kamani tree for my plant project? If listening to Jack Johnson while doing my homework was not a great enough reason, this dismal Athens weather certainly is!



        The Kamani tree is a large tree with broad leaves. It only grows in hot temperatures with medial rainfall. It grows in coastal sandy areas along the pacific islands and the islands of Hawaii (Rose 2006). The leaves of the Kamani tree are waxy and showy with golden yellow stamens and a pink pistil (Beauty leaf…updated 1993. Typically a dozen or so flowers grow in clusters and are found hanging from a long stalk (Calophyllum inophyllum…updated 2006. Because of the Kamani tree's long broad root systems, it prefers light to medium soils. It tolerates shallow to salinity soils with acidy and neutral pH levels (Beauty leaf…updated 1993. It is not easily propagated and is usually discouraged for people to plant the Kamani tree as an investment. Because of its extremely large size and roots that extend extensively underground; therefore, it is not well suited to confined spaces (Calophyllum inophyllum…updated 2006.


       It is a Hawaiian delicacy and natives take pride in its distinct appearance. Because it grows only in specific locations and requires optimum conditions to survive there are few environmental threats (Beauty leaf…updated 1993. Also, the seed, leaves, gum and bark are said to have medicinal properties for eye ailments, burns, and other flesh wounds (Beauty leaf…updated 1993. Poison has been made from the latex from the cut bark to kill rodents and stun fish (Rose 2006). This was commonly used in many Polynesian households and by fisherman throughout the Pacific Ocean. However, only the endosperm of the still immature fruit is safe to eat. The oil from the fruits of the Kamani tree has been used for cleaning supplies in many towns and villages (Calophyllum inophyllum…updated 2006. The oil acts as a degreaser and leaves a light lime fragrance or as a wood finisher (Beauty leaf…updated 1993. Therefore, the Kamani Tree is extremely popular and natives realize the need to keep this tree remaining plentiful throughout the islands. The Kamani was often planted around temples and shrines because it was seen as a holy sign (Calophyllum inophyllum…updated 2006. Also due to the Kamani trees symbolizing a religious icon, locals take great stride in restoring the coasts on which Kamani tree grows making sure to maintain the environment in which it grows.


      Hawaiian natives cherish the beauty of the Kamani tree; therefore, the public holds little threat to the environment in which the tree resides. Most people are more concerned with maintaining the trees existence that they make sure the tree grows in a healthy environment. However, the tree faces some biotic factors besides the results of human behavior. The leaves and young shoots are susceptible to attack by various insects (Calophyllum inophyllum…updated 2006. Also, adult trees can begin to rot and decompose because of fungi that attack the trunk of the tree. Young leaves are able to undergo an attack from thrips (Calophyllum inophyllum…updated 2006. Thrips are minute insects that have long narrow wings and are known to infest a variety of weeds and crop plants. Although most infestations are common they are usually short lived and rarely render long-term problems (Rose 2006). Some animals have tendency to rub against the tree, including many species of deer, and weakens the trunk of the Kamani tree (Calophyllum inophyllum…updated 2006. No treatment is needed for pest control because it leaves little to no intense damage and it is very short lived.


         This is not considered an invasive species due to its slow growth and large seeds (Rose 2006). Also the seeds are water distributed so it is less likely that this plant spreads invasively because they can’t be found on inland forests. Because growth takes so long it also shows that the Kamani tree won’t outcompete native vegetation (Rose 2006). Therefore, the Kamani tree is only found in Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests.






Above represents the native range of the Kamani tree from East Africa, through India and Southeast
Asia to the Philippines, and Taiwan.  Extending through Australia and through southern and eastern
Polynesia (indicated by the arrows and the green areas on indicated countries on the right side of the map) .
The tree is found along the coasts and only remains in lowland coastal areas. Now the Kamani tree is found
only in Hawaii and the tropics of the Caribbean and Pacific islands. 


      The Kamani tree is treasured so much through the Hawaiian Islands that natives find every way to preserve its habitat. Residents of Ka’a’awa have persuaded its officials to “work around” a huge Kamani Tree on the Kamehameha Highway, a major roadway near the famous Kualoa Park (Historic Kamani Tree Protected...updated 2005 The Kamani tree serves as a historic landmark by surviving nearby construction and pruning. Instead of having the city take out a large part of the Kamani tree’s root system authorities deem it necessary to let the tree stand untouched (Historic Kamani Tree Protected…updated 2006. Not only do the natives appreciate this motion they, they are relieved that the Kamani Tree will continue to be a historical landmark for the park.


      After reading, it is obvious that the Kamani tree is only found in certain locations. Because it is common in only a few places the natives do all they can to preserve this species. Constant research and ideas on preservation circulates the Pacific and Hawaiian islands so that the tree will not become extinct.








Allaby Michael. 1998. A Dictionary of Plant Sciences. Oxford (NY): Oxford University Press. p. 315


Beauty Leaf- Calophyllum inophyllum internet. updated 1993 Nov. Southern Group of State Foresters, Division of Forestry; cited 2008 Feb 1. Available from: http://hort.ufl.edu/trees/CALINOA.pdf



Calophyllum inophyllum (Kamani) Internet. updated 2006 April. Hōlualoa (HI): Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry; cited 2008 Feb 1. Available from http://www.agroforestry.net/tti/Calophyllum-kamani.pdf


Historic Kamani Tree Protected internet. updated 2005 Dec. Greenleaf, The Outdoor Newsletter; cited 2008 Feb 5. Available from: http://www.outdoorcircle.org/pdfs/2005.12_TOC.Greenleaf.Dec.2005.pdf



Rose, Jeanne. 2006. Aromatherapy- Calophyllum inophyllum. Name and Latin binomial internet. cited 2008 Feb 1. Available from http://www.jeannerose.net/articles/calophyllum.html


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