'Olapa (Cheirodendron trigynum [Araliaceae]) is a native shrub/tree in the Waikamoi Preserve. "[T]he fluttering motion of its leaves when moved by the slightest of breezes is the inspiration for a type of hula" (info from NPN).
More information about 'olapa is available from the Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk project (HEAR).
(image by Forest & Kim Starr)
Information from TNCH's Waikamoi Preserve Plant Identification Cards:
Description: 'Olapa is a tree that ranges in height from 5-15 m (16-50 ft). The bark is gray and smoothish but sometimes rough or scaly. Its compound leaves, palmately arranged on long, slender, and flattened petioles (stalks), have 3-5 leaflets, which are shiny green on the upper surface; dull light green below. Edges sometimes have fine, curved teeth. When the bark and leaves are crushed, they emit an aromatic carrot-like smell. The greenish or purplish flowers are arranged in forked clusters. The small fleshy fruit turn purplish to black at maturity. At a distance these trees can be distinguished by its leaves fluttering in the breeze.
Distribution and Ecology: 'Olapa occurs an all of the Hawaiian Islands except Kaho'olawe in moist to wet forest, where it is a common canopy tree, along with 'ohi'a and koa. The fruits were eaten by native birds, some of which are rare or extinct. 'Olapa is a host plant for native Drosophila, or picture-wing, flies.
The bark of 'olapa, taken along with other plants, was used as a preventive medicine for asthma by the early Hawaiians. The fruit was used as a blue dye for kapa, or bark cloth. The wood is a good fuel as it burns when green. The wood was also used for catching birds for their feathers; birds landed on 'olapa sticks smeared with sticky material. 'Olapa is a term used in hula to describe dancers who acquire the grace of the 'olapa leaves blown by the slightest wind.