thespesia populnea

Milo is the Plant, Twisted Together with Love

Restoring Milo to the Landscape of Kawailoa, Oahu

One of the trees which Kalona Brand will be returning to the landscape of Kawailoa is milo (thespesia populnea). Milo means to turn, twirl, twist or spin. The milo is believed to be indigenous to Hawaii and is also one of the species of trees brought to Hawaii by our Polynesian ancestors.  


Milo had a variety of uses including making of cordage from the bark, using the fruit to make dyes for kapa, the trunks and branches for umeke (calabashes) for the storing of food, and flowers for the making of lei.


The milo is referenced in the traditional Hawaiian creation chant, the Kumulipo:


Hanau ka laumilo noho i kai – Born is the laumilo (eel) living in the sea

Kiai ia e ka milo noho i uka – Guarded by the milo (tree) living on land


This refrain identifies a common theme in the Hawaiian worldview and cosmology, that all the elements, animals, trees, and plants are related and interconnected. The species of the sea are guarded by the trees of the land, and together balance and harmony is achieved.


The popularity and importance of the milo is indicated by the number of place names in Hawaii named after the milo including:


Kamilonui (the large milo) and Kamiloiki (the small milo) valleys in Maunalua, Oahu

Kamilo point in Kau, Hawaii Island

Kamiloholu (the swaying milo) in Puna, Hawaii Island

Kamiloloa (the tall milo) in the Kona district of Molokai

Lalamilo (the milo branch) in Kohala, Hawaii Island

Waiakamilo (water of the milo), in Kona, Oahu


The milo is also referenced by the wind of Makaopau in the story of Keawenuiaumi:


He makani hao i ka laumilo ko Makaopau – Makaopau’s wind is one that blows the leaf of the milo


Milo is found in one of our traditional Hawaiian proverbs:


He milo ka laau, mimilo ke aloha. – Milo is the plant, twisted together with love.

This proverb is referring to the milo tree as its flowers, leaves, or seeds were used by kahuna (priests) who practiced hana aloha (prayers to evoke love).


We are excited to be restoring this traditional tree to Kawailoa as we rebuild the forest incorporating native and traditional species, increase biodiversity, add organic matter to the soil, and recreate a model of agricultural abundance for Hawaii and beyond.