Rhus sandwicensis – Neneleau
Other Common Names: Hawaiian Sumac, Neleau
Rhus sandwicensis is an endemic flowering plant that belongs to the cashew family, Anacardiaceae. It is known by its common names such as Hawaiian Sumac, Neleau, and Neneleau.
Neneleau is typically small as it only reaches a height of 4.5 to 7.5 meters or 15 to 25 feet. Its trunk diameter is normally 10 to 30 centimeters or 3.9 to 11.8 inches. It usually lives longer than 5 years and often used for screening for roads and for accent in landscaping.
When young, the leaves of the Neneleau have a pinkish to reddish tinge, that is why new and young leaves are one of the plant’s most remarkable feature. As they mature, the colors turn medium green on the surface and light green on the underside. They have a coarse texture and usually grow up to 18 inches or 46 centimeters long. The leaves are pinnately compound, while the leaflets are oblong to lanceolate, following the shape of a lance or spear.
Numerous tiny, yellow flowers grow in clusters above the plant’s foliage. They can range from whitish to pale yellow, with reddish to brownish tomentose. They are followed by drupes, or small round fruits that are red in color and grow about 1/8 inch or 3 millimeters in diameter. From a distance, the fruits look like flowers as they grow abundantly. They are also reported to be edible.
Neneleau’s lightweight, yet tough wood is often used to make massage sticks and calabashes. They were also one used to make saddle trees and as well as plows and yokes used on ranches.