Monday, August 25, 2008


On a recent visit to the Kahanu Gardens outside of Hana, I was given a handy guide to all of their specimens of indigenous and Polynesian-introduced flora. One entry that I found especially interesting was the description of the Polynesian-introduced Breadfruit or 'Ulu tree.

A view of our 'Ulu tree with developing fruit and moon in the background.

We have an 'Ulu in our yard and have actually cooked the ripe, white fruit which has a sweet potato-like taste and texture. I especially liked it diced and roasted in the oven. But this tree's offerings go beyond just the fruit, which, by the way, isn't a single fruit but actually a collection of many smaller fruits pressing together into a multiple fruit. And that's only from the female flowers. The male counterpart is a separate flower that grows on the same tree.

A close up of the fruit. You can see the seams where all the many smaller fruits fuse together.

I have seen these male flowers littering the ground under the tree but always thought they were just undeveloped fruits. They drop when they are whitish yellow and then dry out to a very dark brown. One may think "what a waste" isn't there something that can be done with these? Leave it to the Hawaiian's to figure out that if you LIGHT them, they turn into mosquito punks!

Male flowers on the ground underneath the tree. Dried (dark brown) and somewhat fresh (pale yellow)

So the minute I read that I had to go try it out for myself and voila! They burn just like incense, and with the most wonderful, pine-cone-cabin smell to boot! They have to be super dry though, which can be difficult to achieve in our neck of the woods. Other uses for this tree include glue from the sticky sap, poi pounding bowls from the wood, and a fine sandpaper from the rough leaves.

A bunch of the dried male flowers.

The dried male flowers burn like incense and the smoke is said to keep mosquitoes away.


Anonymous said...

I've been following the blog since seeing you guys on Design*Sponge. I always enjoy the insights into Hawaiian life. John -- I've noticed that it appears Conn gets more comments with his posts. So in an effort towards balance -- punks from a tree, who knew?

John said...

Thank you for the kind blog support! We've noticed that too. Now I'm trying to convince him that I'm not "anonymous" commenting on my own post! I'll be posting more entries in the near future so hopefully I'll make up some ground.

Parnell Corder said...

John Power!

- A Hermaphrodite tree and a Chicken which thinks its a dog! Cant wait for whats next!

Deb said...

Aloha John -

Nice to post to you!

Huh - I never knew about the incense thing. But you didn't mention it it actually works or not. . .if not, at least it smells nice.

Maybe you can find a secret hiding spot in Kahului or Kihei to dry them out:-)

John said...

Aloha Deb! Yes, the first one i lit burned downed right to the stem. it was magic! the others are bit persnickety. i think your right. gotta take 'em to kihei.
or maybe i'll try to dry them in the oven next time it's cooling down.