Moanalua Gardens Foundation
Cultural and Environmental Education in Hawaii
1352 Pineapple Place, Honolulu, Hawaii 96819-1754
Phone: (808) 839-5334; Fax (808) 839-3658


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Hug your koa today.

Forests provide habitat for plants and animals, recreational areas for bird watching, hiking, camping, fishing and hunting, and wood products for construction, furniture, paper, and other uses. Forests also provide watershed areas that help insure a steady supply of clean, fresh water. In Hawaii, most of these forests are dominated by ohia and koa trees. They are not often visited by people, and host few if any introduced plants or animals. Hawaiian koa forests are no longer in pristine condition. Non-native plants, such as guava and eucalyptus, and the introduced birds and insects associated with them are common in very disturbed forests.

koa logging

Join MGF in our reforestation project fundraiser! Sponsored by Hui Ku Maoli Ola native plant nursery, a $10 donation will provide one seedling that will be planted in the uplands of Manana, the ahupuaa that Pearl City is located in today. Buy a koa tree seedling by calling MGF at 839-5334. All donations will fund MGF's cultural and environmental education programs. Show your support for MGF and Hawaii by restoring the koa forests!

Elepaio with koa blossoms, phyllodes, leaves.
Drawing by Ron Walker.

Koa (Acacia koa), endemic

Koa is also the Hawaiian word for warrior. Hawaiians carved the straight trunks of this giant tree into sturdy outrigger canoes.

Description: 15-40 m (50-140 ft) tall and up to 4 m (12 ft) in diameter; "leaves" (phyllodes) on mature trees are crescent-shaped; flattened leaf stems; true leaves are finely divided.

Habitat: Found in dry and medium wet forests from 460-1,800 m (1,500-6,000 ft) elevation.

Note the koa's crescent-shaped phyllodes (they are NOT leaves). This koa is on the Aiea Loop Trail on the island of Oahu.

Note the wider phyllodes of this koa from the island of Hawaii. Compare them to the narrower ones from Aiea. Photo by Greg Koob.

Puffy koa blossoms and phyllodes. Photo by Greg Koob

For more information about our koa forest, check out our Ohia Project lesson Where Have All the Koa Gone? for Grade 5. For the younger set, check out Finding the Forest for Grade 1.

koa tree photo by Greg Koob

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Ohia Project Water Lessons

a selection of out-of-print lessons

All rights reserved.
revised 30 January 2006
Hawaiian diacriticals have been intentionally omitted.