Cordia subcordata is a slender and elegant coastal tree which is enshrouded in folklore and tradition. For example, in Tuamotuan mythology, this species, which is known as ‘kou’ throughout much of Polynesia, is believed to have been one of the first trees created on Earth. In Tongan legend, the demigod Maui discovered fire and hid it in the kou tree, the breadfruit, and the coconut. The tree is known as ‘kerosene wood’ in Papua New Guinea, as it is traditionally used for fuel to make fires which may be started by rubbing two pieces of the wood together (3).
Cordia subcordata is a small to medium sized evergreen tree, with a broad, dense crown, a spreading canopy and angular branches (2) (3) (4). The trunk is straight and erect, covered in grooves and fissures and with flaky, pale grey bark (3) (4) (5). The heartwood of Cordia subcordata has beautiful reddish, pale brown or dark brown markings, with hints of purple, dark brown and black streaks, contrasting distinctly with the straw-coloured sapwood (4) (5).
The large, smooth, oval-shaped leaves of Cordia subcordata are alternate and have wavy edges and blunt-pointed ends, with prominent veins visible on the leaf surface (2) (3) (4). The leaves are generally a light green colour and are shiny above and dull below (3). Cordia subcordata produces beautiful clusters of scentless, bright orange flowers. Borne at the ends of the branches, the flowers are large and funnel-shaped, resembling a trumpet. They are long and broad, with between five and seven slightly wrinkled petals (2) (3) (4) (6).
- Height: up to 15 m (2)