Lei o Hawai`i
There are many varieties of seed lei, some very ancient, and some more modern. Kukui is the clasic seed lei of ancient Hawai`i, and is still a prized piece of jewelry in modern collections. Wiliwili, kamani, and other native plants also priduce seeds used in lei since ancient times. In post-contact and odern times, the introduction of many new species has created a huge growth in the artistry and variety of the seed lei.
Ancient Seed Lei
Kukui - Aleurites moluccana also is known as the candlenut. It is a somewhat large tree in the spurge family. The oily nut kernals were formerly strung on coconut frond midribs and lit like candles, thus the tree is a symbol of enlightenment. Well-crafted kukui lei are a cherished part of men's and women's jewelry collections, and are appropriate to wear at even the most up-scale of occasions and locations.
Kamani - Calophyllum inophyllum. It is a large tree with shiny oval leaves and round seeds. The kernals provide an oil which is useful in varnishing canoes. The round blonde to brown seeds ar strung to make attractive lei.
Wiliwili - Erythrina sandwicensis. A somewhat spiny tree with a short, thick trunk. The bight red seeds have long been prized for lei.
Modern Seed Lei
Velvet Seed - Majidea zanqueborica also goes by the names of: Maambo, Mgambo, African Velvet Seed, Hawaiian Velvet Seed, African Pussy Willow, Hawaiian Pussy Willow, and Weleweka. The Hawaiian transliteration of "velvet" is "weleweka," giving the seed its modern Hawaiian name. Sometimes it is misspelled "wili weke," "wele weke," or "wele waka." This small tree apparantly was imported from Africa in the last ten or so years. It is in the soapberry family, and a realtive of the native Hawaiian manele. Manele can easily be seen in Bird Park and Kipuka Ki, in the Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park.
While so many of these introduced seed lei are beautiful, some of them come from plants which are a threat to our native ecosystems. You can find more information on our native forests and protecting them at the State Forestry Web Page, http://www.dofaw.net/