Characteristics of Candlenut Trees (Aleurites moluccana) in the Wild

Aleurites moluccana
Candlenut (Aleurites moluccana) is a plant whose seeds are used as a source of oil and spices. Apart from being known as the candlenut tree, it is also often referred to as the varnish tree or kukui nut tree.

In the interstate trade, pecan seeds are known as Candleberry or Indian walnut. The oil extracted from the seeds is useful in industry for use as a paint mixture.

It is not known the exact origin of the candlenut tree, this plant is widespread from India and China, through Southeast Asia and Indonesia, to Polynesia and New Zealand. Currently, the candlenut tree is planted and cultivated in other tropical areas. The candlenut tree is now also the official state plant of Hawaii.

Candlenut trees are also often planted as multipurpose trees, especially for greening the land, as shade in the yard, and also for ornamental trees.


Characteristics of Candlenut Leaf

Aleurites moluccana Leaf
Source: Lung Aik

The leaves are single, alternate, dark green, long-stemmed, with a pair of glands at the end of the stalk. The leaf blade is almost round or egg-round, up to 25 cm in diameter, with a heart-shaped base.


Characteristics of Candlenut Flower

Aleurites moluccana Flower
Source: Caledonia

Candlenut flowers are unisexual, white, short-stemmed. The female flowers are at the end of the additional umbrella panicle, the male flowers are smaller and bloom first around them, and are more numerous. Petals with 2-3 armor, the crown of lanceolate shape, 5-tiered, 6-7 mm long in male flowers, and 9-10 mm in female flowers.


Characteristics of Candlenut Fruit

Aleurites moluccana Fruit
Source: and Kim Starr

Candlenut fruit is shaped like a stone, about 5-6 cm × 4-7 cm in diameter, olive green, velvety-haired, whitish flesh, does not break down, has 2 or 1 seeds. Seeds are hard-shelled and thick, slightly flattened, 3 cm × 3 cm in diameter, with whitish seed chips, and rich in oil.


Characteristics of Candlenut Tree

Aleurites moluccana Tree
Source: and Kim Starr

The candlenut tree can grow into a large tree as high as 40 meters with a trunk up to 1.5 meters. The bark is gray, slightly coarse with lenticels. The wood is whitish and very light, and is not durable, and is easily attacked by fungi or insects.

The young leaves, twigs, and flower arrangements are decorated with dense, short, silver, or whitish star hairs as if sprinkled with flour. So that it makes the tree from a distance appear whitish or silvery in color.

Some parts of the candlenut tree are used in traditional medicinal compositions in rural areas. The oil is used as an additive in hair care (to nourish hair) and the seeds are used as a laxative. In Japan, bark has been used to treat tumors. In Sumatra, the seeds are burned with charcoal, then rubbed around the navel to cure diarrhea. In Java, the bark is used to treat diarrhea or dysentery.


The candlenut tree is easy to cultivate, it can be propagated in generative or vegetative ways. However, cultivation in Indonesia prefers planting candlenut seeds from seeds.

Most of the modern planting of candlenut is to obtain the oil. In each planting, each tree will produce about 30-80 kg of candlenut, and about 15-20% of this weight is the oil obtained. Most of the oil produced is used locally, not traded internationally.

Please note that there are several varieties of candlenut that are distributed in the world, Aleurites moluccana comes from the Malay peninsula, Aleurites fordi comes from Central China, Aleurites trisperm comes from the Philippines, Aleurites montana comes from Indochina and southern China and Aleurites cordata originated from Japan. The properties of each type of candlenut tree are different from one another, including the height of the tree, the texture of the pulp, and the quality of the oil produced.

There are two varieties of candlenut that are most famous when viewed from their products, namely Aleurites moluccana as a source of wood, consumption/spices, and oil for medicine (primary products) and Aleurites trisperma as oil for extracting hazelnut (primary product) and biodiesel oil candlenut (as a secondary product).


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