Santalum haleakalae var. haleakalae

leaf Main Plant Information






  • haleakalae

Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Lāʻau ʻala
  • Wahie ʻala
  • ʻAoa
  • ʻAʻahi
  • ʻIliahi

Hawaiian Names

  • Aahi
  • Aoa
  • Iliahi
  • Laau ala
  • Wahie ala

Common Names

  • Haleakalā iliahi
  • Haleakalā sandalwood


  • Santalum haleakalae

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Tree

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Shrub, Tall, Greater than 10
  • Tree, Dwarf, Less than 15
  • Tree, Small, 15 to 30

Mature Size, Width

8 feet. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC]

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Screening
  • Specimen Plant

Additional Landscape Use Information

Haleakalā ʻiliahi will grow in a medium to high elevation landscape. Keep host plant fertilized and vigorous. A suggested host plant is kuluʻī because it prunes well and thus will not out compete and shade the young ʻiliahi. Too, kuluʻī has a good root system for the hemiparistic nature of ʻiliahi. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC]

Source of Fragrance

  • Flowers
  • Wood

Additional Fragrance Information

Flowers are mildly fragrant. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC] The dark yellowish brown wood is very fragrant. [2]

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type


Flower Colors

  • Red
  • White

Additional Flower Color Information

Dense bright red or scarlet bunches (inflorescence) of flowers.

Blooming Period

  • Sporadic
  • June
  • July

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

Flowering is sporadic but mostly blooms in summer. Dark purple fruits (drupes) hang from tree for a few weeks at maturity. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC]

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Fine

Additional Plant Texture Information

Leaves are somewhat round and very similar to some ʻiliahialoʻe (Santalum ellipticum) on Oʻahu. [2] Leaves are olive green often purple tinged. They range between 1 and 7 inches long.

Leaf Colors

  • Light Green
  • Medium Green

Additional Leaf Color Information

Leaves are a glaucous olive-green, often with a purplish hue.

leaf Pests and Diseases

leaf Growth Requirements

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Additional Water Information

Medium watering. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC]

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun


  • Drought


  • Cinder
  • Organic


If bees are a concern, this tree attracts them when blooming. This species does best above 2500 foot elevation. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC]

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Maui

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • 4000 to 4999, 0 to 50 (Dry)

Additional Habitat Information

This spectacular species is found on the dry slopes and alpine shrubland of Haleakalā, East Maui at 5,000 to nearly 9,000 feet in elevation.

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

ʻIliahi and ʻiliahialoʻe belong to the Sandalwood family or Santalaceae which comprises about 1,000 species worldwide and includes several species endemic to the Hawaiian Islands in the genera Santalum, Exocarpus and Korthalsella.

Currently there are six endemic species in the Hawaiian Archipelago. [8]


The generic name Santalum is derived from santalon, the Greek name for sandalwood.

The specific epithet haleakalae is named for Haleakalā, Maui where this species is found.

Hawaiian Names:

Lāʻau ʻala lietrally means "sweet wood" or "fragrant wood."

Background Information

ʻIliahi and ʻiliahialoʻe are hemiparasitic, which means they derive some nutrients from their host but are not totally dependent on them as are other native plants such as mistletoe or hulumoa (Korthalsella spp.), kaunaʻoa (Cuscuta sandwichiana), and kaunaʻoa pehu (Cassytha filiformis)--all of which are parasitic. [3]

The Sandalwood Trade Story:

The captivating scent of sandalwood's heartwood has fueled greed among men throughout the world. This was the case with a collaboration of Chinese, American and Hawaiian merchants and monarchy in the late 18th century. Due to China's, as well as a few other countries, insatiable appetite for sandalwood, the white sandalwood (Santalum album) imported from India was becoming scarce because of over harvesting and, even to this day, it is an endangered species.

With fewer imports from India, and with the help of American fur traders, China now turned their attention to the Hawaiian sandalwoods or ʻiliahi and ʻiliahialoʻe. From the 1790's to mid-1830's, ʻiliahi and the Hawaiian people who harvested the logs experienced an incredible hardship with the exportation of sandalwood to China. For obvious reasons, the Chinese in the Canton-Macao area began to call the Hawaiian Islands Tang Heung Shan [Tahn Heung Sahn], or the "Sandalwood Mountains." [6]

Many thousands of Hawaiians, at the order of the aliʻi, under Kamehameha I (the Great), left off agriculture and worked to supply the Sandalwood Trade. The consequences were devastating. Many of the common people (makaʻāinana) who were used as laborers died from exposure to cold weather, exhaustion, malnutrition, disease or other causes. As a result, during this dark period Hawaiʻi suffered through one of the worst famines in its history. [7]

By the mid-1830's, the sandalwood supply was nearly exhausted and the remaining inferior or smaller pieces were driving prices and demand down. Even naio (Myoporum spp.) was trying to be passed off as genuine sandalwood with little success. Naio has thus acquired the pitiful nickname "bastard sandalwood."

In 1839, King Kamehameha III (Kauikeaouli) placed a kapu on the remaining ʻiliahi, reserving it for himself. By 1840 the Hawaiian sandalwood trade basically came to a finish. [8] Fortunately, the people, the land and the ʻiliahi have recovered but not without scars. While not as common as in the past, ʻiliahi and ʻiliahialoʻe are fairly easy to see in its native habitat though very large trees are still difficult to find.

Early Hawaiian Use


The early Hawaiians used the powdered heartwood to perfume kapa. [1]


One older source (Charles Gaudichaud,1819) states that Hawaiians "used all fragrant plants, all flowers and even colored fruits" for lei making. The red or yellow were indicative of divine and chiefly rank; the purple flowers and fruit, or with fragrance, were associated with divinity. Because of their long-standing place in oral tradition, the leaves, new leaves (liko) and flowers of ʻiliahi were likely used for lei making by early Hawaiians, even though there are no written sources.

Modern Use

Today, the fruit is sometimes used as a dye. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC]

Flowers are still used for lei. [4]

Additional References

[1] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice H. Krauss, page 70.

[2] "The Indigenous Trees of the Hawaiian Islands" by J.F. Rock, page 135.

[3] "Distribution and Status of Sandalwood i Hawaiʻi" by Lani Stemmermann. Presented at the Symposium on Sandalwood of the Pacific, April 9-11, 1990, Honolulu, Hawaii.

[4] "Nā Lei Makamae--The Treasured Lei" by Marie A. McDonald & Paul R. Weissich, pages XIV-XV, 28.

[5] "Part II--Species Descriptions Santalum freycinetianum Gaudich." by James A. Allen, Paul Smiths College, Paul Smiths, NY, pages 705-706.

[6] "A Hawaiian King Visits Hong Kong, 1881," Tin-Yuke Char, page 93; [accessed 12/15/08]

[7] "The History of Human Impact on the Genus Santalum in Hawaiʻi" by Mark Merlin and Dan VanRavenswaay. Presented at the Symposium on Sandalwood of the Pacific, April 9-11, 1990, Honolulu, Hawaii.

[8] "Taxonomic Revsion of the Endangered Hawaiian Red-Flowered Sandalwoods (Santalum) and Discovery of an Ancient Hybrid Species" by Danica T. Harbaugh, pages 833-838.



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