`Iliahi, Santalum spp., is a group of native Hawaiian sandalwoods, several species of which are still common on the major islands. It belongs to family Santalaceae. They range in size from shrub, sometimes with long branches and usually with thicker leaves than the mountain forms, an adaptation for water conservation. The upland forms are upright shrubs or small trees. Some species have long, tubular flowers that are dark red; other species have smaller, funnel-shaped flowers that are yellowish-green. The flowers lack true petals and are actually modified sepals. `Iliahi produces roots that grow towards the neighboring plants and extract nourishment from them, the species is said to be partially dependent on other plants for food (partial parasitism).
The pounded bark of the `Iliahi was used by the early Hawaiians as a remedy for lice infestation and the powdered heartwood used to scent tapa. From about 1790 to 1840, the sandalwood trade to China became the first profitable export trade of Hawaii. The Chinese especially valued the wood for temple incense and for making small pieces of furniture, such as chests and boxes. They came to call Hawaii the "Sandalwood Islands."
`Iliahi or sandalwood: Santalum ellipticum Gaud., a coastal species and a dry mesic species, Santalum freycinetianum Gaud. are examples of two endemic species of Hawaiian `iliahi that belongs to the family Santalaceae. Once a common lowland forest tree, `iliahi was heavily logged in the early 1800's for trade with China. The Santalum genus has 25 species from East Malaysia and Australia to Polynesia and Juan Fernandez Islands. Its generic name was derived from "santalon" a Greek name for sandalwood.