Santalum ellipticum
Starr 070607-7271 Santalum ellipticum.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Santalales
Family: Santalaceae
Genus: Santalum
S. ellipticum
Binomial name
Santalum ellipticum

Santalum ellipticum, commonly known as ʻIliahialoʻe (Hawaiian) or coastal sandalwood,[2] is a species of flowering plant in the mistletoe family, Santalaceae, that is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands.[3] It is a sprawling shrub to small tree, typically reaching a height of 1–5 m (3.3–16.4 ft) and a canopy spread of 1–3 m (3.3–9.8 ft), but is extremely variable in size and shape. Like other members of the genus, S. ellipticum is a hemi-parasite, deriving some of its nutrients from the host plant by attaching to its roots.[4]

Habitat and range[]

ʻIliahialoʻe inhabits dry forests, low shrublands, and lava plains[4] throughout the archipelago, including the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, but has been extirpated from Laysan and Kahoʻolawe. Although never recorded on Niʻihau, its historic presence on the island is almost certain.[5] S. ellipticum is generally found at elevations from sea level to 560 m (1,840 ft), but populations can occur as high as 950 m (3,120 ft).[4] An isolated individual was observed growing at 2,140 m (7,020 ft) on the island of Hawaiʻi.[5]



The ʻlaʻau ʻala (heartwood) of ʻiliahialoʻe contains valuable, aromatic essential oils. Trees were harvested for export to China between 1791 and 1840, where the hard, yellowish-brown wood was made into carved objects, chests, and incense. The ʻiliahialoʻe trade peaked from 1815 to 1826.[6] Native Hawaiians used the wood to make pola, the deck on a waʻa kaulua (double-hulled canoe). Powdered ʻlaʻau ʻala was used as a perfume and added to kapa cloth.[7]


Native Hawaiians combined leaves and bark of the ʻiliahialoʻe with naio (Myoporum sandwicense) ashes to treat kepia o ke poʻo (dandruff) and liha o ka lauoho (head lice). ʻIliahialoʻe shavings mixed with ʻawa (Piper methysticum), nioi (Eugenia reinwardtiana), ʻahakea (Bobea spp.), and kauila (Alphitonia ponderosa) was used to treat sexually transmitted diseases.[6]


  1. ^ "Santalum ellipticum". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2011-03-08.
  2. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Santalum ellipticum". The PLANTS Database (plants.usda.gov). Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  3. ^ Little Jr., Elbert L.; Roger G. Skolmen (1989). "ʻIliahi-a-lo e, coast sandalwood" (PDF). Common Forest Trees of Hawaii (Native and Introduced). United States Forest Service.
  4. ^ a b c Merlin, Mark D.; Lex A.J. Thomson; Craig R. Elevitch (April 2006). "Santalum ellipticum, S. freycinetianum, S. haleakalae, and S. paniculatum (Hawaiian sandalwood)" (PDF). The Traditional Tree Initiative. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ a b "Santalum ellipticum". Native Plants Hawaii. Retrieved 2011-03-08.
  6. ^ a b "iliahi". Hawaiian Ethnobotany Online Database. Bernice P. Bishop Museum. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  7. ^ Medeiros, A. C.; C.F. Davenport; C.G. Chimera (1998). "Auwahi: Ethnobotany of a Hawaiian Dryland Forest" (PDF). Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)