Kou (Cordia subcordata) is a species of flowering tree in the borage family, Boraginaceae, that occurs in eastern Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, northern Australia and the Pacific Islands. The plant is known by a variety of names including beach cordia, sea trumpet, and kerosene wood, among others.
Other names for the species include kanawa, tou, kou, mareer, manjak, snottygobbles, glueberry, narrow-leafed bird lime tree, In Java and Madura, it is known as kalimasada, purnamasada, or pramasada; Javanese folklore consider the tree to contain spiritual power.
The seeds are edible and have been eaten during famine. C. subcordata burns readily, and this led to the nickname of “Kerosene Tree” in Papua New Guinea. The wood of the tree has a specific gravity of 0.45, is soft, durable, easily worked, and resistant to termites. In ancient Hawaiʻi kou wood was used to make ʻumeke (bowls), utensils, and ʻumeke lāʻau (large calabashes) because it did not impart a foul taste to food. ʻUmeke lāʻau were 8–16 litres (2–4 gal) and used to store and ferment poi. The flowers were used to make lei, while a dye for kapa cloth and aho (fishing lines) was derived from the leaves.
Janka Hardness: Unknown. From our experience, it is very easy to work with.