Uhiuhi (Mezoneuron kavaiense) is a federally-endangered tree with fewer than 50 individuals remaining in the wild. A member of the Fabaceae (Pea) family, this tree also goes by the names Kāwa‘u (Maui) and Kea (Maui). Growing from around 250’ to 3000’. elevation, the uhiuhi has pinnate leaves with 4-8 leaflets approximately 1.25 inches in length. The flowers are notably reddish-purple. The seed pods are flat, thin, and round about 3 inches long and 2 inches wide with an easily visible line running down the side. When the seeds are mature, you can hear them rattling within the pod!
The wood of the uhiuhi is incredibly dense, and is one of the few Hawaiian woods that will actually sink in seawater. Early Hawaiians and today’s practitioners use uhiuhi wood for making strong tools and weapons. The beautifully rich, dark brown wood can be made into kapa beaters (‘ie kuku), pāhoa (daggers), spears, fishing sinks, house posts, and hōlua sleds!