Acacia koa is considered by many to be the king of the Hawaiian forest trees; it is typically found on mountainsides at altitudes between 1,500 and 4,000 feet. It features a large round, dark green crown and often reaches heights of 50 feet or more. When it grows in groves, it will grow tall and straight yielding saw logs as much as 10 feet in diameter. If is grows alone, or amongst smaller plants, its branches begin growing closer to the ground and spread widely. The light gray bark is smooth on younger trees, but erupts into furrows as the tree ages. The leaves are crescent shaped, smooth and very stiff, each consisting of five to seven pairs of pinnae, and each pinna having 12 to 24 pairs of leaflets. Early each spring, small pale yellow flowers adorn its crown, often these flowers will develop into long thin seedpods.
The color of the lumber is light to dark brown with a distinct golden lustre, sometimes exhibiting irregular dark streaks. It is moderately hard and heavy, has a specific gravity of 0.83 (air dried) and weighs approximately 45 pounds per cubic foot (oven dry weight). It is a diffused porous hardwood (not unlike black walnut) with excellent musical characteristics. The figured variety is extremely difficult to work by machine, and is typically only fashioned by hand.

The ancient Hawaiians carved canoes from koa logs and now the Hawaiians use koa for everything from ornamental boxes and furniture to musical instruments (ukeleles and ceremonial drums).

Photograph index

copyright 1997, anthony huvard, site maintained by