From Common Forest Trees of Hawaii

Cordia subcordata
Cordias family (Cordiaceae)

Native species (indigenous)

This is a small tree with a broad uncommon along shores, and apparently predates early Hawaiians. Characterized by large broad to elliptical blunt-pointed leaves and showy large funnel-shaped orange flowers. To about 26 ft (7 ) high and 15 inches (38 ) in trunk diameter, reported to reach a somewhat larger size formerly. Bark gray, thick rough, furrowed into narrow ridges. Twigs stout, light gray, sometimes hairy, with raised half-round leaf-scars.

©2009 Wendy Cutler
Leaves with long stout leaf-stalks 11 ⁄2–4 inches (4–10 ) long. Blades broadly to elliptical, 3–7 inches (7.5–18 ) long and 2–5 inches (5–13 ) wide, blunt at rounded or unequally short-pointed at base, often slightly wavy on edges, thin, above shiny or dull green with few long yellowish veins and hairless, beneath dull light green with raised veins and fine whitish hairs mostly along veins and in vein angles. Leaves turn bright yellow and dark brown before falling.

Flower clusters ( or ) and lateral, short, about 2 inches (5 ) long. Flowers are several, short-stalked, showy, about 1 1⁄4 inches (4 ) long and broad. cylindrical, fleshy, yellow green, 5⁄8 inch (15 ) long, with 3–5 short broad teeth; orange, funnel-shaped with 5–7 rounded slightly wrinkled 5–7, threadlike, inserted in tube and slightly longer; and with conical 4-celled and slender orange branched twice near

() several, egg-shaped, 1 inch (2.5 ) long, enclosed by the brown with teeth and base of at green, becoming dry and brown, with large hard stone. Seeds four or fewer, white, about 1⁄2 inch (13 ) long, narrow.

Sapwood is pale yellowish brown and heartwood is light brown prominently marked by dark brown or black streaks in the growth rings. Figure resembles that of “Circassian” walnut. Lightweight ( gr. 0.45), soft, easily worked, durable, and takes a fine polish. It was used by the Hawaiians for their handsome bowls, cups, and dishes. The wood was favored for utensils because it did not impart a flavor to foods as do koa and other native woods. It is still used occasionally for craftwood but is in very short supply.

Formerly, this very useful tree was more common as a shade tree of rapid growth around houses and along the shore. The flowers were made into necklaces or leis, and the seeds were eaten. Many trees were destroyed by moths.

In Hawaii, scattered through the islands along shores, both humid and arid, and planted as an ornamental. Recorded from Niihau. As further evidence of introduction, Degener noted that fossil pollen of this species had not been found in Hawaii and that no peculiar or insects were found on the trees here.

Trees may be seen at Kualoa Beach, Maui Zoological and Botanical Garden, and in many other places. One of the largest kou trees in Hawaii grows in front of the Pauhana Inn at Kaunakakai, Molokai.

Special areas
Waimea Arboretum, Foster, lolani, City

Now cultivated and established from eastern Africa and tropical Asia through Malaya to tropical Australia and Pacific Islands. Possibly distributed to Hawaii and other islands by early inhabitants. Or by ocean currents.

Kou is often confused with the more recently introduced kou-haole or Geiger-tree, Cordia sebestena L., which is smaller in size and has smaller, rough textured leaves, white and darker orange flowers.

Other common names
koa (Guam); niyoron (N. Marianas); kalau (Palau); galu (Yap); anau (Truk); ikoik (Pohnpei); ikoak (Kosrae); tauanave (Am. Samoa)

stamen -- the pollen-producing reproductive organ of a flower; The stamen consists of an anther supported by a filament.

sp. -- The abbreviation for "species". The plural is "spp". When used it sometimes means that the exact species is unknown. For example, "Aster sp" would mean some species within the Aster genus but the writer may not know exactly which species.

cm -- A centimeter which is about 0.4 inches.

m -- A meter is about 10% larger than a yard.

endemic -- when restricted to a certain country or area.

style -- This is a long and thread-like structure that connects the stigma with the ovary. A flower may have a single style, or several of them.

The apex is the tip or the furthest point from the attachment.

alternate -- leaves alternate along the main stem and are attached singly.

terminal -- Located at the end (the tip or the apex).

cyme -- Multiple flower stalks emerge from a single point and the flowers at the end bloom first.

A panicle is a much-branched inflorescence. The bottom flowers in a panicle open first.

A pistil is the female structure of many flowers. It contains one or more carpels. Each carpel contins an ovary, style and stigma. The stigma receives the pollen which grows thru the style to reach the ovary.

An evergreen tree retains a large portion of its green leaves all year.

In an opposite leaf arrangement the leaves come in pairs with one leaf on each side of a stem.

lobe -- Rounded parts of a leaf (or other organ). Lobes bulge out about 1/4 of the leaf diameter.

calyx -- the sepals of a flower, typically forming a whorl that encloses the petals and forms a protective layer around a flower in bud.

fruit -- any seed-bearing structure in flowering plants. It is formed from the ovary after flowering.

drupe -- A fruit in which an outer fleshy part surrounds a hardened shell containing a seed. A peach is a drupe. A raspberry is composed of drupelets.

canopy -- The foliage of a tree; the crown. Also the upper layer of a forest.

mm -- millimeter. About 1/25th of an inch.

corolla -- The name for all the petals of a flower taken together.

ovate -- Oval, egg-shaped, with a tapering point.

An ovary is a part of the female reproductive organ of the flower. Above the ovary is the style and the stigma, which is where the pollen lands and germinates to grow down through the style to the ovary.