These small koa trees on the right were found along side the road on Koloko Drive on the slopes above Kailua-Kona. Larger koa trees can be seen at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.
No discussion of the koa tree would be complete without mentioning its importance to the Hawaiian rain forest. It is a nitrogen-fixing species. In dense, pole-size stands, nitrogen-rich koa foliage can account for 50 to 75 percent of the leaf-litter. Mature koa is needed for bird habitat; our forest birds do not use young, pure stands of koa, but do use the old, mixed-species stands adjacent to young stands.
The koa's fine straight trunk made the wood a favorite for canoes in ancient times. Hawaiians also used the wood for surfboards, storage containers (but never for food storage), weapons, and tools.
Today, this lustrous wood is used for cabinets, veneer, and crafts. It frequently occurs with a curly grain and ranges in color from golden-blonde through most common orange-red to deep purples.
The interior walls of Hulihe'e Palace were originally koa.The doors are made of koa and much of the Palace furniture was crafted from koa.