The plant is known by a variety of names including Mareer, Kerosene wood, Manjak, Snottygobbles, Glueberry, Narrow-leafed Bird Lime Tree, Kanawa, Tou, and Kou. The tubular flowers are 1-2" in diameter and form cymes or panicles. Petals are orange to peach (very rare variety) and the sepals are pale green. Blooming occurs throughout the year, but most flowers are produced in the spring.
The seeds are edible and have been eaten during famine. The wood of the tree is soft, durable, easily worked, and resistant to termites. It burns readily, and this led to the nickname of Kerosene Tree in Papua New Guinea. In ancient Hawaii kou wood was used to make umeke (bowls), utensils, and umeke laau (large calabashes) because it did not impart a foul taste to food. The flowers were used to make lei, while a dye for kapa cloth and aho (fishing lines) was derived from the leaves.