Planchonella sandwicensis

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Kaulu
  • Āulu
  • ʻĀlaʻa
  • ʻĒlaʻa

Hawaiian Names

  • Alaa
  • Aulu
  • Elaa
  • Kaulu


  • Myrsine molokaiensis
  • Planchonella auahiensis
  • Planchonella aurantium
  • Planchonella ceresolii
  • Planchonella puulupensis
  • Planchonella rhynchosperma
  • Planchonella spathulata
  • Pouteria auahiensis
  • Pouteria aurantia
  • Pouteria ceresolii
  • Pouteria rhynchosperma
  • Pouteria sandwicensis
  • Pouteria spathulata
  • Sapota sandwicensis
  • Sideroxylon auahiensis
  • Sideroxylon ceresolii
  • Sideroxylon rhynchosperma
  • Sideroxylon sandwicense
  • Sideroxylon spathulatum
  • Suttonia molokaiensis

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Partially Woody / Shrub-like
  • Sprawling Shrub
  • Shrub
  • Tree

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Shrub, Tall, Greater than 10
  • Tree, Dwarf, Less than 15
  • Tree, Small, 15 to 30
  • Tree, Medium, 30 to 50
  • Tree, Large, Greater than 50

Mature Size, Width

Depending of the source and growing conditions of this variable plant, the canopy can be from 20 to 40 feet.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Accent
  • Provides Shade
  • Screening

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • Greenish-White

Blooming Period

  • Summer

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

The fruit is edible when it ripens. [2]

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Coarse

Leaf Colors

  • Dark Green
  • Medium Green
  • Red

Additional Leaf Color Information

Leaf color is variable from medium green to yellowish-brown to rust.

leaf Pests and Diseases

leaf Growth Requirements


Apply 13-13-13 slow release fertilize every six months for seedlings and saplings.

Drench and foliar feeding* potted plants and out planted saplings in early morning with a water-soluble or an organic fertilizer (e.g. kelp or fish emulsion) at one-third to one-fourth the recommended strength monthly or every other month has proved beneficial. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

* Drench feeding is applying a liquid fertilizer directly to the potted plant or soil where plant is growing. Foliar feeding is a method to spray leaves with low doses of fertilizer.

Water Requirements

  • Dry
  • Moist

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun


  • Drought


  • Cinder
  • Organic

Special Growing Needs

ʻĀlaʻa do not make good potted plants. The roots tend to coil and the plant will go into decline if not planted out. If it is necessay to keep them in a container for any length of time, use deep pots, such tree pots or cone pots, so that the tap root has room to go downwards. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Kauaʻi
  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui
  • Hawaiʻi

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 150 to 1000, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 1000 to 1999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 1000 to 1999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 2000 to 2999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 2000 to 2999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 3000 to 3999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 3000 to 3999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)


  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

ʻĀlaʻa are naturally found in dry to mesic and diverse mesic forests from about 790 to over 3600 feet.

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

ʻĀlaʻa and its indigenous relative keahi (Sideroxylon polynesicum) are the only two native Hawaiian members belonging to the Sapodilla family (Sapotaceae) comprising about 200 species.

The genus was recently changed to Planchonella. [8]

Some edible family members include Sapodilla or Sapota (Manilkara zapota); the natural, original chewing Gum chicle (Manilkara chicle); Star apple (Chrysophyllum cainito); Mamey sapote or Abricó (Pouteria sapota); Canistel or Yellow sapote (Pouteria campechiana); and the incredible Miracle fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum), which when eaten alters the tongues taste receptors turning bitter or sour foods, such as lemons and limes, sweet!


The generic name Planchonella is name for Jules Émile Planchon (1823-1888), a French botanist born in Ganges, Hérault, France.

The specific epithet sandwicensis refers to the "Sandwich Islands," as the Hawaiian Islands were once called, and named by James Cook on one of his voyages in the 1770s. James Cook named the islands after John Montagu (The fourth Earl of Sandwich) for supporting Cook's voyages.

Hawaiian Names:

Āulu and kaulu are also alternate names for pāpala kēpau (Pisonia sandwicensis).

ʻĒlaʻa is a variant spelling or a variety of ʻālaʻa. [9]

Background Information

The fruit is edible when it ripens and drops to the leaf litter and sits for a couple of days. The flavor is like baked yams. [2]

Early Hawaiian Use

ʻĀlaʻa wood was used for a number of purposes, such as to make gunwales for canoes, [1] house construction, ʻōʻō, and spears (ihe). [3,4] A digging stick (ʻōʻō) made of ʻālaʻa was also called ʻālaʻa.

The milky sap was used as a glue (kolū) for tool and weapon handles.

Bird Catching:

The sticky sap was used in pīlali, or birdlime, to snare small forest birds for feathers for cloaks, capes, helmets, lei, and kāhili. The flowers of ʻōhā wai (Clermontia spp.) were used to lure the victims in kia manu (bird-catching by gumming).


The seeds were used to make permanent leis. [1]


The leaves and bark were used for external medicine. [6] The leaves were for curing the illness referred to as pehu poʻipū. [7]

Additional References

[1] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice H. Krauss, pages 50, 140, 323.

[2] Sam ʻOhukaniʻōhiʻa Gon III, presentation "Scientific and Cultural Perspectives--Dry Forest Plants & Ecosystems," Nāhelehele Dryland Forest Symposium, Feb. 26, 2010.

[3] "Trees and Other Plants Used by Early Hawaiians" by C.S. Judd, page

[4] "Common Forest Trees of Hawaii (Native and Introduced)" by Elbert L. Little, Jr. and Roger G. Skolmen, pages 270, 274.

[5] [1] "Systematic Botany Monographs, Volume 32, Systematics of Clermontia (Campanulaceae-Lobelioideae)" by Thomas Lammers, pages 5, 6, 10-11, 24-30.

[6] "Hawaiian Ethnobotany Online" [accessed 11/4/10]

[7] "Auwahi: Ethnobotany of a Hawaiian Dryland Forest" by A.C. Medeiros, C.F. Davenport & C.G. Chimera, pages 21-22.

[8] "Molecular phylogeny of Planchonella (Sapotaceae) and eight new species from New Caledonia" by Swenson, Ulf; Munzinger, Jérôme; Bartish, Igor V., pages 329-331, 333, 354.

[9] Hawaiian Dictionaries online [Accessed on 11/22/11]



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