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Aleurites moluccanus - (L.) Willd.

Common Name Candle Nut, Country Walnut
Family Euphorbiaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The fresh seed contains a principle resembling croton oil and should not be eaten[ 63 ]. Thorough drying destroys this principle[ 63 ]. The seeds contain cyanide, which is largely destroyed by thorough drying or cooking. However, some strains of the tree contain much higher levels of toxins than other strains[ 377 ]. The leaves are toxic[ 311 ].
Habitats Rain forest, monsoon forest, or tall advanced secondary forest; growing on mountain slopes, very abundant on ridges, sometimes in sandy soil among granite boulders, loam soil or on former shifting cultivation lands, at elevations below 300 metres[ 598 ].
Range E. Asia - China, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, New Guinea, Australia, Pacific Islands.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Aleurites moluccanus Candle Nut, Country Walnut

Aleurites moluccanus Candle Nut, Country Walnut
Wibowo Djatmiko wikimedia.org


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Candlenut (Aleurites moluccanus), otherwise known as Kukui Nut Tree, Candleberry, Kemiri, Indian Walnut, Varnish Tree, Nuez dela India, or Buah Keras is a flowering tree that grows up to 25 m tall and has a spreading, irregular, dense canopy and a straight and cylindrical bole and can be up to 70 - 150 cm in diameter. The nut is round, and the seed inside has a very hard seed coat and a high oil content. Flowering starts when the tree is about 4 years old and can occur year-round. Due to such characteristics, candle nut tree is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant and as great source of seed oil. The raw seed is edible but needs to be thoroughly dried first to destroy its toxic components like cyanide. The seed can also be roasted, pounded, mixed with other ingredients, or used in curries. It is in fact known in Indonesian cuisine as kemiri or an indispensible spice. On medicinal features, the bark is used to treat wounds, tumours, bloody diarrhea, and dysentery. Further, decoction of the bark is used to treat infertility in women and secondary amenorrhoea while infusion of the bark is used to treat thrush, sore throat, tonsillitis and mouth sores. Candlenut oil is used like castor oil, rubbed on scalp as hair stimulant, and as massage oil. The leaves, however toxic, are used for treating constipation and food poisoning. Decoction of the leaves is used to treat coughs, diarrhea, chest pain, and hernia. Infusion of the leaves, on the other hand, is used as a lotion or ingested for treating infant?s mouth infections. The leaves can also be boiled and use as a poultice to treat gonorrhoea and headaches.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Aleurites moluccanus is an evergreen Tree growing to 20 m (65ft) by 20 m (65ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is not frost tender. The flowers are pollinated by Bees.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid, very alkaline and saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Aleurites ambinux Pers. Aleurites angustifolius Vieill. Aleurites angustifolius Vieill. ex Guillaumi


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Oil  Seed
Edible Uses: Oil

Edible portion: Kernel, Seeds, Nut, Vegetable. Seed - cooked. The roasted seed is eaten in small quantities only, since larger amounts are said to be laxative[ 301 ]. The seeds of a type grown in Vanuatu can be eaten in larger quantities without any apparent toxic effect[ 299 ]. After removing the hard outer coat, the seed can be pounded into a meal and eaten as a sauce[ 303 ]. The seed can be used in curries[ 598 ]. The seed is an indispensable spice in Indonesian cuisine, where it is known as 'kemiri. It possesses little flavour of its own, but mainly acts as a flavour enhancer, being added to numerous dishes in small quantities, raw, or briefly roasted, pounded and mixed with other ingredients[ 299 ]. In Hawaii a spice called 'inamona' is prepared from the seeds mixed with seaweed and salt[ 299 ]. The seed needs to be stored for some time, so that they are thoroughly dried, before they are eaten[ 63 ]. See notes above on toxicity. The residual oil cake is sometimes processed into a snack-food called 'dage kemiri' in Indonesia[ 299 ]. It is prepared by pounding the oil cake, then soaking it for 48 hours in running water, steaming it and then covering it with a banana leaf with a weight on top of it to press out remaining liquid. It is then left to ferment for 48 hours in a dark place[ 299 ]. Fruit[ 598 ]. The fruit has a thick rind enclosing two large seeds surrounded by a thin layer of pulp[ 377 ]. An oil is obtained from the seed[ 301 ]. The oil is inedible[ 303 ]. A reasonably important nut in several areas of Papua New Guinea. It is a cultivated food plant.

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antidiarrhoeal  Antitumor  Contraceptive  Dysentery  Laxative  Purgative  Stimulant

Candle nut is a widely used traditional medicine in the Pacific Islands[ 311 ]. Some caution needs to be employed when using this plant since there are also reports of toxicity[ 63 , 311 ]. The bark is used to treat wounds, tumours, bloody diarrhoea and dysentery[ 303 , 311 ]. Bark juice, with coconut milk, is used for treating sprue[ 303 ]. In Tonga, infertility in women is treated by daily drinking a decoction of the bark[ 311 ]. Secondary amenorrhoea is also treated with a decoction of the bark[ 311 ]. Thrush, sore throat, tonsillitis and mouth sores are treated in Polynesia by gargling with an infusion of the bark[ 311 ]. The oil is purgative and sometimes used like castor oil[ 303 ]. The irritant oil is rubbed on scalp as a hair stimulant[ 303 ]. In the Cook Islands and Tahiti, candlenut oil is used to make a massage oil for a certain kind of headache (possibly caused by meningitis)[ 311 ]. The kernels are laxative, stimulant and sudorific[ 303 ]. The pulped kernel is used in poultices for headache, fevers, ulcers and swollen joints[ 303 ]. In Papua New Guinea, the seeds are applied externally to the male genitals as a contraceptive[ 311 ]. The leaves are used to treat constipation and food poisoning[ 311 ]. A decoction of the leaves is used in treating coughs, diarrhoea, pains in the chest and hernia[ 311]. An infusion of the leaves is used as a lotion or is ingested for mouth infections of infants[ 311 ]. The boiled leaves are used as a poultice to treat headaches and gonorrhoea[ 303 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Alcohol  Dye  Fertilizer  Fuel  Hedge  Oil  Paint  Paper  Pioneer  Tannin  Varnish  Wood

Other uses rating: High (4/5). Agroforestry Uses: The tree is used in reforestation projects[ 299 ]. Moderately fast growing, tolerant of strong winds and full sun and with a wide range of uses, it is an excellent species for use as a pioneer when restoring native woodland and establishing woodland gardens, though its ability to become naturalized in new areas means it should not be used outside areas where it is already established[ K ]. It is often planted as a living fence or as a boundary marker[ 339 ]. Other Uses The seed yields 57-80% of an inedible, semi-drying oil, liquid at ordinary temperatures, solidifying at -15 deg. C, containing oleostearic acid[ 303 ]. The oil, quicker drying than linseed oil, has a wide range of uses, being employed in applications such as a wood preservative; for varnishes and paint oils; as an illuminant; for soap making; cosmetics; linoleum manufacture; waterproofing paper; rubber substitutes; and insulating material[ 303 ]. It can be painted on bottoms of small crafts to protect against marine borers and also prevents feeding by striped cucumber beetle[ 303 ]. Oil yields as high as 300 kg/ha have been reported[ 303 ]. The seeds are so rich in oil that they have been strung together on a string and used as candles[ 63 , 307 ]. A fast-drying oil is obtained from the seed[ 303 , 598 ]. It is used in paints, making soap and as a lamp oil[ 598 ]. It is suitable, with modification, for use as a substitute for diesel fuel, the residues can be converted to alcohol or burnt as a fuel[ 303 ]. A copper-red dye is obtained from the plant (the seed?), used for decorating cloth[ 307 ]. The powdered seed is used as an adjuvant in the manufacture of palm sugar[ 301 ]. The seed press cake is suitable as a fertilizer[ 303 ]. The bark contains about 4 - 6% tannin[ 303 ]. The hardness of the seedcase is exploited in a gambling game in which the objective is to break the opponent?s stone by hitting it with one's own. In Indonesia a special cultivar is grown for this purpose[ 299 ]. The shells of the seeds are used in making traditional garlands (?leis?)[ 299 ]. The whitish wood is fine-grained, light in weight, soft, not durable, susceptible to termite attack[ 299 , 303 , 307 , 598 ]. It is used for general furniture, making plywood[ 307 , 598 ]. Where the wood is abundantly available it is used for carving and to make furniture, small utensils and matches[ 299 ]. It is suitable for paper pulp[ 299 ]. The tree is sometimes planted as a backyard tree to supply firewood[ 303 ].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Coppice  Food Forest  Hedge

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Industrial Crop: Medicinal  Industrial Crop: Oil  Management: Standard  Regional Crop

The tree thrives in moist tropical regions, ranging from subtropical dry to wet through tropical very dry to wet forest life zones. It grows best at altitudes below 1,200 metres with a mean annual temperature in the range 18 - 28?c, and a mean annual rainfall of 650 - 4,300mm[ 303 ]. Plants can tolerate short-lived frosts with temperatures occasionally falling as low as -4c[ 377 ]. Requires a sunny position[ 598 ]. Succeeds in a wide range of soils so long as they are well-drained[ 299 ]. Plants prefer a pH in the range 5 - 8[ 303 ]. Tolerant of strong winds and some salt spray[ 299 ]. Some caution should be employed before introducing this tree into new areas since it can be very invasive[ 307 ]. Growth is moderately fast, up to 1.5 metres per year in height under favourable conditions. In the Philippines trees reached a height of 12.5 metres with a stem diameter of 15cm 8 years after planting[ 299 ]. The tree first flowers when it is about 4 years old. Flowering can occur year-round, and flowers and fruits of all stages of development may be present on a tree. The fruits need 3 - 4 months to develop and mature[ 299 ]. Once established, trees require little to no attention. They can bear 2 heavy crops each year, harvested when mature[ 303 ]. In plantations nut yields are estimated at 5 - 20 tonnes per hectare, with each tree producing 30 - 80 kg[ 303 ]. Oil production varies from 15 to 20% of nut weight[ 303 ]. Trees coppice when young and respond to pollarding when old[ 303 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Industrial Crop: Medicinal  Most pharmaceuticals are synthesized from petroleum but 25% of modern medicines are based on plants.
  • Industrial Crop: Oil  Materials, chemicals and energy include bioplastics, biomass, glycerin, soaps, lubricants, paints, biodiesel. Oilseed crop types.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Seed - The seeds are very hard-shelled, and untreated seeds have been known to stay in a seedbed for as long as 38-150 days before germination[ 303 ]. The most satisfactory method of treatment is to place a single layer of seeds on the ground and cover them with dried leaves or grass. The grass is then burned. Immediately after burning and while seeds are still hot, they are thrown into cold water, which results in the cracking of the hard shells. The results of this kind of treatment showed an average germination of more than 30%[ 303 ]. For even faster germination, the seed can be cracked[ 303 ]. Kernels adhere to sides of the shell and are difficult to separate[ 303 ] Cuttings.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Ai-kami, 'Ama, Buah kareh, Buah keras, Candleberry, Hai, Kabakanjagala, Kekuna, Kemiri, Kuikui, Kukui, Kyainthee, Lama, Lauci, Lumbang bato, Mayow, Miri, Munchang, Pu'a, Rama, Sekeci, Sikethi, Tel kekuna, Tiairi, Toto, Tutui, Tuitui.

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Found In: Africa, Asia, Australia, Brunei, Burma, China, Cook Islands, East Africa, East Timor, Fiji, Guam, Haiti, Hawaii, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Laos, Malawi, Malaysia, Marquesas, Mozambique, Myanmar, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Pacific, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Philippines, Polynesia, Samoa, SE Asia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Southern Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tahiti, Taiwan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Uganda, USA, Vanuatu, Vietnam, West Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Invasive in American Samoa, the Cook Islands, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Dominican Republic, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Niue, Pitcairn, Samoa, Tonga, Singapore and Mayotte. Concerns in Australia, including Christmas Island.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Aleurites cordataJapan Wood-Oil TreeTree7.0 9-11  LMSNM002
Aleurites fordiiTung Tree, Tung Oil Tree, Wood Oil Tree ChinaTree7.0 8-10 FLMSNM133

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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(L.) Willd.

Botanical References


Links / References

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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