Koai‘a (Acacia koaia)
Hawaiian name: Koai‘a (Koai‘e)
Botanical name: Acacia koaia
Family: Fabacae (Pea Family)
Status: Endemic, At Risk
Where found: Maui, Moloka‘i, Lāna‘i, Hawai‘i, O‘ahu & Kaua‘i
Water/Light: Dry, with full sunlight
Elevation range: 150 to 6,200 feet
Height: 15 to 25 feet, with a 20 foot spread
Notes: Koa's relative, koai‘a, once grew in the lowlands of most Hawaiian Islands. Koai‘a is usually a better choice for lowland landscapes over koa because of its smaller stature and natural resistance to pests. The dense reddish brown wood is harder than koa and was used by early Hawaiians to create short and long spears, fish lures, shark hooks and paddles. A yellow kapa dye can be made using the flowers. Medicinally, the crushed leaves were mixed with other plants and used in a steam bath to treat skin disorders. Koai‘a is drought and wind tolerant.
‘Ōlelo Noeau [M. K. PUKUI]: E hu‘e mai ‘oe i ke koai‘e o Makawao!
Translation: Try uprooting the koai‘e tree of Makawao!
Meaning: A boast from a strong native lad of Makawao, Maui saying, “I dare you to tackle me.”
*Photo courtesy of Jupiter Nielsen