Sideroxylon polynesicum

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Keahi

Hawaiian Names

  • Keahi

Common Names

  • Hawaiian nesoluma
  • Island nesoluma


  • Chrysophyllum polynesicum
  • Nesoluma polynesicum

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

At Risk

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Shrub
  • Tree

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Shrub, Medium, 6 to 10
  • Shrub, Tall, Greater than 10
  • Tree, Small, 15 to 30
  • Tree, Medium, 30 to 50

Mature Size, Width

25 to nearly 30 feet

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Screening
  • Specimen Plant

Additional Landscape Use Information

These handsome small trees should to be grown more in the landscape and do not seem to be difficult to maintain.

Source of Fragrance

  • Flowers

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type

Not Showy

Flower Colors

  • Greenish-White

Additional Flower Color Information

The flowers are rusty brown on outside and greenish-white inside. [2]

Blooming Period

  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

Many brownish to dark purple fruits, resembling olives, form after flowering. Fruits are very sticky inside. [2]

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Medium

Additional Plant Texture Information

Plant leaves are leathery and range between 1 and 5 inches long.

Leaf Colors

  • Dark Green
  • Medium Green
  • Red

Additional Leaf Color Information

Young leaves have a beautiful rusty brown fuzz on lower surface, while shiny above and loses much of the fuzziness as it ages. [2]

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Ants, scales, mealybugs, thrips, aphids, and black twig borers.

leaf Growth Requirements

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun


  • Drought

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)
  • 1000 to 1999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 2000 to 2999, 0 to 50 (Dry)


  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

Formerly a common part of dry forests, but now rare in remnant patches of dry forests due to loss of habitat from about 425 to 2,100 feet. [2] Interestingly, keahi is found on ʻŌkala, an islet off Molokaʻi. [3]

In the Hawaiian Islands, keahi is considered a vulnerable and rare species even though it is indigenous.

This species is also found in the Austral Islands on the islands of Raivavae and on Rapa, or Rapa Iti (Little Rapa). [1]

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

Keahi (Sideroxylon polynesicum) belongs to the Sapodilla family (Sapotaceae). There about 70 species of Sideroxylon, a number them particularly in the Caribbean Region, are considered as Vulnerable to Critically Endangered by The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The indigenous keahi, and its endemic relative ʻālaʻa (Planchonella sandwicensis), are the only two in this family native to the Hawaiian Islands.

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 (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!

One truly notable realtive of Keahi is Tambalacoque or Dodo tree (Sideroxylon grandiflorum), endemic to Mauritius. The Dodo, which became extinct in the 17th century, ate Tambalacoque fruits, and it was once thought that only by passing through the digestive tract of the Dodo could the seeds germinate. However, new evidence proves otherwise. [continue]


The generic name Sideroxylon is derived from the Greek sidera, iron, and xylon, wood, in reference to its very hard wood.

The specific epithet polynesicum literally means "from the Polynesian islands."

Background Information

The fruits of keahi look like they might be delicious, but they are extremely sticky and inedible.

Modern Use

The hard wood is durable but apparently not used. [2]

Additional References

[1] [accessed 11/3/08]
[2] "Common Forest Trees of Hawaii (Native and Introduced)" by Elbert L. Little, Jr. and Roger G. Skolmen, page 316.

[3] Offshore Islet Restoration Committee [Accessed 8/7/13]



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