Although initially believed to be a Polynesian introduction, fossil evidence found on Kauaʻi indicates that kou was present in Hawaiʻi before the arrival of humans. However, it was also introduced to the islands by the Polynesians. Native kou is different than the introduced Geiger tree, or Cordia sebestena. It is easy to grow and does well in dry areas. Kou trees are relatively small in stature and make an excellent shade tree. They have orange flowers and non-invasive roots, making a good street tree, although flowers and seeds can create debris under the tree. The wood is useful. Although soft, when freshly cut, it dries hard and is beautiful; it was more highly prized in old Hawaiʻi than koa because it is easily carved with non-metal tools. Modern woodworkers prize kou wood. Flowers are perfect for lei-making.
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