Sapindus oahuensis

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Kaulu
  • Lonomea
  • Āulu

Hawaiian Names

  • Aulu
  • Kaulu
  • Lonomea

Common Names

  • Oʻahu soapberry
  • Soapberry


  • Sapindus lonomea

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Tree

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Tree, Medium, 30 to 50
  • Tree, Large, Greater than 50

Mature Size, Width

Lonomea has a natural spread of about 40 feet or more.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Provides Shade
  • Screening
  • Specimen Plant

Additional Landscape Use Information

These are very nice additions to a native landscape. Plant with other native plants and shrubs such as ʻaʻaliʻi, ferns and ground covers.

Source of Fragrance

  • Fruits

Additional Fragrance Information

The roundish or oval fruits resemble dates, smell like figs or raisins, but are not edible. [Diana Troutman, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • White

Additional Flower Color Information

Lonomea has small whitish flowers.

Blooming Period

  • Spring
  • Summer
  • Winter

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Medium
  • Coarse

Additional Plant Texture Information

The leaves range from 3 to more than 10 inches long.

Leaf Colors

  • Dark Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

Leaves have a yellow midrib.

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

The trees are prone to white flies and small gray weevils. Chinese rose beetles will chew holes in leaves and black twig borers can be a mild to serious problem for lonomea.

leaf Growth Requirements


When younger, lonomea appreciate an application of a balanced slow release fertilize with minor elements every six months. Foliar feed monthly with kelp or fish emulsion, or a water-soluble fertilizer with a dilution of one half to one third of recommended strength. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

Pruning Information

Trim dead material as needed. Fallen fruits and leaves should be raked up in a formal landscape or they can be left as compost in more natural settings.

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Additional Water Information

Once established water once a month only the during driest months. A true xeric, or drought tolerant, tree.

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

Additional Lighting Information

Lonomea tolerates some shade, but require some direct sunlight each day.


  • Drought
  • Wind


  • Sand
  • Cinder
  • Coral


Lonomea is susceptible to stem rot if over watered.

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Kauaʻi
  • Oʻahu

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)

Additional Habitat Information

Naturally is found only in mesic to dry forests on northwest Kauaʻi and in the Waiʻanae and Koʻolau Mountains (Waimalu to Niu valleys) on Oʻahu from about 200 to 2,000 feet.

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

Lonomea, or Āulu, (Sapindus oahuensis) belongs to the large international Soapberry family or Sapindaceae. Other well known family members include maple (Acer spp.), horse chestnut, guarana, lychee, longan, and rambutan.

Native members include mānele (Sapindus saponaria), māhoe (Alectryon macrococcus), and ʻaʻaʻliʻ (Dodonaea viscosa).


The generic name Sapindus is derived from Latin sapo, or soap, and indicus, Indian. Crushed lonomea fruit makes a sudsy lather when mixed with water and was formerly used as a soap substitute, and thus aptly named the "soapberry tree."

The specific epithet oahuensis is taken from the island of Oʻahu, one of two islands this species is naturally occurring.

Hawaiian Names:

The name Lonomea was used for the 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.

Samuel Lamb notes the additional name Keulu. [4]

Background Information

The hard wood is light brown and apparently similar to mānele (Sapindus saponaria). [7]

Early Hawaiian Use

The very hard blackish seeds were used for medicinal purposes and to string for gorgeous permanent lei. [1,3,5,6]

The hard wood was used to make spears and for other purposes. [8]

Additional References

[1] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice H. Krauss, page 78.
[2] "Hawaiʻi's Seeds and Seed Leis-An Indentification Guide" by Laurie Shimizu Ide, pages 110-111.

[3] "Hawaiian Seed Lei Making--Step-by-Step Guide" by Laurie Shimizu Ide, page 122.

[4] "Native Trees & Shrubs of the Hawaiian Islands" by Samuel H. Lamb, page 80.

[5] "Nā Lei Makamae--The Treasured Lei" by Marie A. McDonald & Paul R. Weissich, page 5.

[6] "In Gardens of Hawaii" by Marie C. Neal, pages 533-534.

[7] "Common Forest Trees of Hawaii (Native and Introduced)" by Elbert L. Little Jr. and Roger G. Skolmen, page 206.

[8] "Hawaiian Ethnobotany Online Database" [Accessed 1/24/12]



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