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Sapindus oahuensis | by D.Eickhoff
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Sapindus oahuensis

Lonomea, Āulu, or Oʻahu soapberry

Sapindaceae (Soapberry family)

Endemic to the Hawaiian Islands (only in meisic and dry forests of northwest Kauaʻi and in the Waiʻanae and Koʻolau mountains from Waimalu to Niu valleys on Oʻahu)

IUCN: Vulnerable

Oʻahu (Cultivated)

 

Flower buds

 

The roundish or oval fruits resemble dates and smell like figs or raisins, but are not edible. The very hard blackish seeds were used by early Hawaiians for medicinal purposes and to string for gorgeous permanent lei. Seeds lei are still made today.

 

Early Hawaiians used the hard wood to make spears.

 

Etymology

The generic name Sapindus is derived from Latin sapo, or soap, and indicus, Indian. Crushed lonomea fruit makes a sudsy lather when mixed with water and was formerly used as a soap substitute, and thus aptly named the "soapberry tree."

 

The specific epithet oahuensis is taken from the island of Oʻahu, one of two islands this species is naturally occurring.

 

NPH00001

nativeplants.hawaii.edu/plant/view/Sapindus_oahuensis

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Taken on March 10, 2008