American Samoa Territorial Tree
Fetau (common name)
Calophyllum inophyllum (scientific name)
Fetau is a medium-sized to large tree with a broad-spreading crown of irregular, angled branches. Its genus name, calophyllum, means "beauty leaf." The tree is widely distributed from tropical East Africa to eastern Polynesia. While American Samoa does not have an official tree, fetau represents the territory well because of its importance as a coastal species and in the history of the islands.
Called fetau in American Samoa, this tree has many common names. In Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, it is called daog or daok, and Hawaiians call it kamani or kamanu. It is also called Alexandrian laurel, ballnut, and beautyleaf.
The simple, oppositely arranged leaves have finely veined blades. The fragrant flowers are 0.59-1.18 inches (15-30 mm) across, and have four white petals and numerous yellow stamens. Trees may flower all year, but flowering is heaviest in late spring/early summer and late fall in the northern hemisphere. The fruit is ball-shaped and approximately 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) across. The fruit's skin, which is green and turns brown and wrinkly when ripe, contains a single oily seed. Fetau's fruit and flowers grow in clusters.
Height: 25-65 ft (8-20 m)
Diameter: up to 3.3 ft (1 m)
Bark: light gray, deeply furrowed with sticky, yellow or white sap
Fruit: large, round, 0.8-2 in (2-5 cm) wide
Leaves: dark green, shiny, elliptical, with blades 4-10 in (10-25 cm) long
Fetau is a slow-growing, long-lived tree. It normally lives for many decades, although specific data on its lifespan is not available.
Fetau occurs on beaches, in coastal areas, and in lowland forests of the tropics. It may also grow on inland riverbanks. It is tolerant to wind, salt spray, drought, and the occasional flooding common to beach environments. It even withstands typhoons.
Fetau shares its native habitat with fish-poison tree, ironwood, kou, beach hibiscus, screw pine, tropical almond, and milo.
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE
White-naped fruit bats seem to especially like fruits and flowers from coastal trees such as fetau. White terns roost in fetau trees, which also provide cover for a wide variety of other birds and wildlife.
OTHER USES AND VALUES
The tree is sometimes planted as an ornamental in coastal villages. Due to its large size, it is widely cultivated as a shade or windbreak tree on streets, parks, and other public places throughout the tropics.
Because the tree's wood is beautiful and easily worked with tools, it is favored for carving, cabinetmaking, and boat building. In Hawaii it is traditionally used for food containers, and in Palau for storyboards. Latex from the cut bark has been made into a poison to kill rodents and stun fish.
The thick, dark green oil from fetau's nuts traditionally has been used for cosmetics and for healing burns and skin diseases, and today is being produced commercially in the South Pacific. The oil, while useful when applied externally, is mildly poisonous and should not be ingested. The hard, golf ball-sized nuts may be poisonous if eaten, but can be burned for mosquito repellant. The oil is also used in varnishes and as lamp oil.
The fragrant flowers have been prized as an adornment and as perfume. Flowers and hollowed-out nutshells are used in leis. The leaves can be made into solutions to treat eye injuries, blurry vision, and diarrhea.
The tree has been regarded as sacred in some Pacific islands, where it has been planted around altars and mentioned in traditional chants.
The trees drop large amounts of fruit, and wildlings may often be found under mother trees, although growth is slow relative to many weed species. Because the fruits float, they are dispersed by seawater.
Fetau regrows dependably but slowly after pruning. The branches can be pruned back every two to three years and they will regrow. Fetau is moderately easy to propagate, though growth is slow.
Fetau occurs in coastal areas, particularly on rocky, cliff-bound coasts and coastal slopes, where it is often the dominant species. It grows along coastal areas and adjacent lowland forests, although it occasionally occurs inland at higher elevations. It prefers well-drained coastal soils, sandy or porous. It will also tolerate clays and rocky soils.
Fetau grows in warm climates with mean annual temperatures of 64 to 91° F (18-33° C). It prefers full sun and wet or moderate conditions. It is not suited to high elevations, cool areas, shade, or very dry conditions.
Fetau is native to east Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Australia, and the South Pacific. It is naturalized on the main Hawaiian Islands and is widely planted in tropical areas. The tree is found at elevations from sea level up to 660 feet (0-200 m) in Hawaii, and up to 2,000 feet (800 m) at the equator.
Click to enlarge an image
U.S. Forest Service
U.S. National Arboretum
U.S. Department of Agriculture
U.S. National Park Service
Author: World Trade Press