Native Lonomea Trees Return to Kuliʻouʻou Valley

The Lonomea tree, scientifically known as Sapindus oahuensis, is an endemic tree found only in mesic to dry forests in the Waiʻanae and Koʻolau region of Oʻahu and on northwest Kauaʻi. This native tree was historically found in the Kuliʻouʻou region where Aloha Tree Alliance conducts its restoration work; however, it has drastically been on the decline over time. The Lonomea Seed Collection project is an effort to re-plant this displaced tree back to its original habitat and educate the community on the importance of reviving endemic species in the forest.

Thanks to Miles Thomas, Bishop Museum botanist, ATA collected hundreds of Lonomea seeds from the southern Koʻolaus region last fall. The Department of Forestry and Wildlife will cultivate the seeds until they are ready to be reforested by ATA back in the Kuliʻouʻou Valley in a year’s time. These crucial partnerships enable ATA to perpetuate native plant education, seed collection, and healthy forest ecosystems for future generations.

Lonomea Fun Facts! 

  • A tree of many Hawaiian names: The name Lonomea was used for the word trees on Kauaʻi, while Āulu or Kaulu was the name used on Oʻahu by early Hawaiians. But, Lonomea seems to be the general name used throughout the state.
  • This species is only naturally occurring in the region of Kaua’i and O’ahu
  • In early Hawaiian culture, the very hard blackish seeds were used for medicinal purposes and to string for gorgeous permanent lei.
  • The hard wood was used to make spears.