E Ola Koa!

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“E ola koa; Live like a koa tree.”
Live a long time, like a koa tree in the forest. – ‘Ōlelo Noʻeau 365

Photo: Close-up of the pua koa
Close-up of the pua koa. – Photo: Alan Cressler

Koa (Acacia koa) are among our most massive trees, growing from near sea level up to an elevation of about 6,000 feet. In the pea family, koa are endemic (only found in Hawaiʻi nei).

(Left) Leaves on a young koa tree. (Center) Koa seeds. (Right) Phyllodes (flattened leaf stems) on a mature koa tree. – Photos: Bobby Camara

Fleets of waʻa were constructed of koa, with hulls of single logs or of planks “sewn” together. Sadly, canoe trees these days are rare because of logging and habitat destruction.

Koa “leaves” are actually flattened petioles (leaf stems) called phyllodes. True leaves are small and may help young trees grow better in shade, while phyllodes may be better when conditions are drier or sunlight more intense.