Volume 48 1939 > Memoirs > No. 16 Fiji plants: their names and uses, by H. B. Richenda Parham, p 1-16
MEMOIR No. 16
Supplement to the Journal of the Polynesian Society.
FIJI PLANTS THEIR NAMES AND USES
INSTALMENT No. 1
Pages 1 —16
- ii Page is blank- 1
FIJI PLANTS, THEIR NAMES AND USES. 1
Flowers creamy-white in open cymes. Perfume strong, but not unpleasant. Bark used in conjunction with scraped roots of nesi and inner bark of doi for rheumatic pains and swellings in the groin. An infusion is made with boiling water and drunk and the residuum used as a poultice.
This little tree is called, in some parts, roro, which see, also ravu-levu (W). The wood is very white. But Seemann gives ravu-levu the distinctive name of Symplocos spicata. Sousou is also a name given to plants of the Solanum genus. Fruit eaten in soup or with yam. There is a small and a large kind.
A pretty club-moss, very abundant in some districts.
Known in many parts of the islands as lawere. Aliali is the Cakaudrove name.
Known in Ceylon as the Epipremnum mirabile (toga creeper). Commercially known as toga bark; and in some places as yalu, or waloa. Used medicinally as a cure for rheumatism or kidney- 2
trouble; also for children troubled with aptha or croup. This medicine is made by boiling a handful of the leaves together with some of the thin outer bark, or integument of the stems, in a quart of water, till reduced to a pint; to be taken frequently.
Sometimes called the paper mulberry. Aimasi is the Bua and Colo West name; but it is known also as malo. Often listed as Moros papyriferous. Used for making tapa (native cloth).
Leaves very rough, and used by the natives as we use sandpaper. Hence the name aimasi (masi-a, to scour).
This species of ficus is easily indentified on account of the roughness of the leaves which feel like, and are often used, in place of sandpaper.
Height of tree from 80 feet; girth up to 10 feet.
More often spoken of as cago, by natives, and as tumeric by Europeans who in early days used the powdered rhizome of the plant in making curry. It has always been much valued by the natives; it is known in its manufactured state as rerenga. An infusion of the root is said to be good for sufferers from bladder trouble, retention of urine and cystatis.
This is the name used for dalo in Noco, Tokatoka and Nakelo. Dalo is of course a favourite native food.
The bau-voivoi. Used for making mats, etc.
A perfumed vine, used in the Bua Province for scent oil. The Fijian's name apparently means “cliff sinnet,” alluding perhaps to the way it clings to, and binds the hillsides.
Is reputed to have medicinal value—a cure for constipation. A large pantropic fern, mostly growing in brackish swamps; stalk of fronds often three or four feet high; in some parts called boresi, in others boreti. Young leaves often used as spinach, and are then called caca (Bua); when older it is used medicinally to relieve costive state of the bowels.- 3
A species of Plantain. The fruit of very fine flavour, each finger from 6 to 9 inches long.
The natives use this fern for their children when they have indigestion. In many parts it is called basaga, which word means crotched, or forked.
Regarded by the natives as a sacred tree. Similar in growth to the well-known banyan trees of India, etc. The timber is of negligible value. The baka is still of repute for the medicinal value of its sap, etc., for pains in joints and swellings. The natives make a great mystery as to the use of this banyan tree, called by them a tevora or devil tree. They make incisions in the living tree. The milky juice must then be collected and applied to the aching limbs.
Fern used as medicine for young children. It grows to a very large size, and is called bahonga in Nadronga.
The native name means “banana-fig”—from some fancied resemblance to the banana. A tree with smooth leaves. The greenish-white flowers are loosely panicled.
Name in Colo-west province for a special variety of white yam. A staple native food.
The Kai Viti have many uses for this handsome fern. Used both for food and medicine; the juice from the stem and stipes is used externally, for any kind of headache. The soft scales covering the stipes also are utilized for stuffing pillows. These are very soft. The word balabala is also used for the rustic flower-pots made from the stem of tree-ferns.
Smith says that the natives of Vanua Balavu insist that the common name for this species is the balaka, although this name is equally applied to the palm genus balaka, and in this way distinguishes it from the common balawa (P. tectorius Solander).
A typical tree-fern of which there are many kinds.- 4
Often called niubalaka. A very diminutive palm, found in Vanua Levu and Taveuni. Excellent walking-sticks made.
Screw-pines and pine-apples are both spoken of as balawa by Fijians. Mats made from leaves.
This is a Nadroga name for wiriwiri. Also called maqele.
A pretty ground orchid; cream coloured flowers, sweetly scented.
Inflorescence very attractive; it is a beautiful crimson or deep rose creeper, which becomes at times shrub-like. Batikula is the Rewa name. Medrawainiliva is another Fijian name for Medillinea.
This Crotan belongs to the Vei Kau. It has serrated leaves.
Timber brownish-red. Fruit edible. Large buttressed tree.
This is the Bua bay name. Timber used in boat-building.
Timber from this tree is difficult to saw, but takes an excellent polish. Similar to the bauvudi, but timber softer.
Medium sized tree with very hard wood. Timber is excellent for cabinet-making.
A small tree, leaves long, inflorescence abundant; reddish-brown timber is useful.
This tree is glabrous, leaves very long, fruit numerous. According to Gillespie it is sometimes called kautoa by the natives, who call the D. Hornei by the same name.
Red fruits; tree; trunks Often used for masts.- 5
Timber of this tree is valuable and much sought after; it is light and easily worked; is like that of the Australian cedar. Natives use the latex in place of chewing-gum.
May possibly be the same as the tree called by the Fijians, bauwati. It is very similar.
A very handsome fern. Very like the M. fraxinea of New Zealand; the fronds are pinnately compound and bright green; the stipes hairy. The Kai-Viti use the same name for the Angiopteris as for the Marratia, but these ferns, though similar, are not identical. Both, however, have very large fronds.
A perennial herb; lives in ponds and running waters. The leaves, green above, purplish underneath, are roundly heart-shaped. The corollas are white with yellow on the margin and base of petals. There are five stamens, also yellow.
The leaves of this species of hibiscus are often eaten in Fiji villages, in the same way that Europeans cook spinach. It is interesting to know that the fruit is eaten in other parts of the world.
A shrub bearing pretty white flowers of medium size, having five persistent sepals and the same number of petals. This is the Macuata name. In Bua a different shrub is also known by the same name. See infra.
This small tree has a slender trunk and branches. Flowers white with pleasant scent, not unlike that of ripe blackberries. These fragrant flowers are sometimes used to perfume coconut-oil. According to tradition this plant grew at Nacobocobo, and was therefore regarded as a tevora (spirit tree).
The leaves are smooth. Called by the natives “the foreign bele,” on account of a fancied resemblance, in foliage to the Hibiscus,- 6
The Bua name for a fern with long, lanceolate leaves.
A grass-like reed growing in, or near water.
A climbing plant with very scented white-petalled flowers. Berries about the size and colour of black-currants. Formerly the leaves of this plant were chewed by the natives when in a strange district in order to prevent being vakadraunikaued, that is to say, bewitched by means of plant magic.
Herb with tuberous root, perennial, but with annual stalk, heads of flowers, leaves thick. The English name is ginger and it is much used as Zingiber officinalis, in cooking. We get our word ginger from Zingiber.
A slightly woody shrub with erect, simple stems. When young the leaves are reddish and a little hairy underneath, but become green when more mature; smooth cymes of small flowers in the axils of the leaves; these are almost sessile. There is a rather larger-flowered variety that goes by the Fiji name of betalevu; Gillespie calls it the G. glandulosa.
A large and hairy-leaved shrub with oblong, egg-shaped fruits. Flowers have pale yellow corollas; leaves green above and yellow-golden underneath.
This fern is also found in New Zealand where it is known as the Polypodium diversifolium. It grows also in other parts of Australasia. Has medicinal virtues. It is very similar to the fern known as vativati.
The common name for bamboo. There is another variety known as bituvatu by the natives.
A flowering annual with yellow flowers and long-stalked leaves.- 7
Medicinal. Also in some parts known as bovu; also boboalewa and bobotagane.
The Nadronga name, where it is claimed to have special virtue as a medicine for the alewas (women) hence its name.
Called also bovudamu. The botanical name draws attention to this species, being less attractive than the variety (M. frondosa) that has etiolated leaves, which from a distance look like white butterflies.
This shrub is found in Colo west and Nadronga. Of repute for its medicinal value. Also called ai-caradavui and caradavui.
Yet another name for the bovu. In Colo west it is claimed as a medicine for tagane (men).
Also called lutu-lutu and kavika-gaga (the poison kavika, i.e., non-edible). The E. gracilipes has a fruit about the size of an acorn.
Medium sized tree, about 20 feet in height, leaves pale-green; flowers grow in the axils of leaves. Found in Vanua Balavu in limestone on sea-cliff.
Fijians believe the boia to be sacred and that it could not be touched by mortal hands without danger to the aggressor. It is known as the fairy banana and has panicles of charming pale-pink corollas. It has been called the plantain of the Veli, that is of the Bush-spirits.
Flowers are pale-green, stamens white and epipetalous. The cup of the calyx has alternating sepals with the petals of the corolla. Leaves opposite. This shrub has a very unpleasant odour by day, but is sweet-smelling by night. Sometimes called kaukauda.
This is the name in Colo east for dalo or taro; this name is also used in Namosi and Waidina.- 8
See dodolala. The fruit is red. (Vanua Levu).
A small shrub, the leaves of which are used by the Kai Viti as a cure for boils. It is found in Colo west, etc.
Bokoi is fairly common in Vanua Levu. It grows on the red land around Bua. The fruit is scarcely distinguishable from that of the kavika. It is sometimes confused with the sea or sa, but the latter has much smaller foliage. It is called also oqori.
Called also bo and bawlwa. A fairly large tree with many-flowered inflorescences, tubed corollas, pale-yellow or white. The flower is small with cup-shaped calyx. Leaves dark green, leathery and large. In the Flora Vitiensis this species is accidentally called C. Corynocarpa; this last named has smaller flowers and leaves.
The Namosi name for a small tree with rough bark. Fruit globose, about 1 inch in diameter.
The former name is used in Bua province where this fern is reputed to have medicinal value when mature. When young the fronds are called caca and are boiled in the place of spinach. These swamp ferns are large and grow freely in low-lying places, and are sometimes the Drabasabasonga or Drobabasangavanga.
A bushy plant, five or six feet high, often found in native koros near the burenisa (stranger's house). The leaves make a good pot herb. The fruit resembles that of the tomato in shape and colour. This plant has the unpleasant notoriety of having been used to eat with bokola in the bad old days.
This plant has very small white flowers. The leaves are frequently used in the place of “greens.” This variety of Solanum grows rapidly and attains to a fair size. The Fijian name means “snake's eggs.”
Fruit greenish, either eaten in soups or cooked in the oven with yams.- 9
Also known as the matamocemoce. It is a medicinal plant used for any chest complaint. In Bua province it is called sungunivanua.
Also called rogo and uto-ga. Leaves are bullate.
Called also bobo, boboalewa and bobotagane. A very attractive shrub, partly on account of the etiolated leaves which distinguishes it from other plants; flowers yellow, and each cluster has one white petiole as well as green leaves. The natives say it is very good medicine to relieve pain in the chest. A Fijian gave this receipe—“Take six leaves, fold them from top to base, pound well and add cold water. Drink it and all the pain goes.” Also used for coughs, especially for young children.
Found in the talisiga 2 country; timber soft; the sweet-scented flowers make the bua tree a general favourite with Fijians, who like to make salusalus (garlands) by stringing the corollas together. The gone (children) and girls gather these after they have dropped on the ground, and take them to their koros in baskets, with a deal of happy chatter. Flowers yellowish, tubular and fleshy; necklaces made from these sweet flowers can be kept after they are dry. The Kai Viti use the fresh flowers (corollas) in coconut oil, to perfume it.
The flowers of this tree are in great favour for making salusalus or taube (neck garlands), the corollas being sweet-scented and very easily threaded; the wood is like box-wood, and equally durable; much used for house- and fence-posts.
The second is the name in Colo west; doubtless because this shrub grows best near the coast. The flowers are beautiful, with long white tubular corollas; stems epipetalous; orange fruit.
A very ornamental shrub, often called the boreniwai, and sometimes the borenibaravi. It has a small, crimson drupe or berry.- 10
Also called kogo and utogo. Leaves are bullate.
In Nadronga province leaves used for hair-lotion. Samoans also use this plant extensively.
Formerly classed as A. falcatum, a well-known fern, being represented in W. Europe and Asia; also in New Zealand (petako). Has medicinal properties; grows on ground and on rocks.
Or bulidavi. This is the name given in Bua province for this little tree. The flowers though small are attractive, for the white corolla has long, extruded heliotrope stamens. It is said to be used medicinally.
The rubber tree, also called drega, though correctly this word should be used for the exuded latex only. Rubber is again on the market.
A climber with lovely white waxy flowers, bunched together in an umbel. A species of the Hoya is called draubibi in Bua.
Has a white, somewhat round edible root, which when boiled tastes like mature potatoes. It is also known as the kaile-tokatolu though this name is more frequently used for the D. pentaphylla.
A small tree, some twelve or 14 feet high. Leaves, which are sparse, grow together at the end of the twigs. Flowers chocolate-brown, inflorescences few flowered.
This charming orchid has a magenta-coloured spike of blossoms about three inches long. Grows on tree-trunks, is also called the seniulatoka, and is found in Colo west and Colo north. It is very probable that the natives called this orchid bune, after a bird of the same name, whose entire plumage is clear red.
The name caca is used for this fern only when young. It is then boiled like spinach.- 11
This is the Nadronga name. Herbaceous; flowers and leaves small; corolla tube expands into acute lobes. Known also by the names lera and dididi.
Known to Europeans as tumeric, and to Indians in Ceylon as kaha, where its root is used for skin-diseases and sore eyes. It is highly valued in all cases of bladder trouble, retention of the urine, cystitis and kindred ills as well as by the women at the time of parturition. In Mariner's Tonga we find that the Tongans also used this plant mixed with oil to prevent chills in wet weather. It is called rerenga in Fiji when made into powder, in the same way they make arrowroot.
The red bracts of the flower-spike are very arresting. In Bua it is accounted a “hurricane flower”; according to Fijian belief when it flowers freely in conjunction with the doi and the ngasau a “blow” may be certainly expected. Also called layalaya, dalaheka and drove, according to whether it is found in Bua, Nadronga, Colo west or Cakaudrove. The Fijians make a drink from the rhizomes with boiling water for colds, indigestion, stomach-ache and bladder trouble, while the seed is often used as a laxative for children.
Has been used as a pot-herb; also found in Australia.
This tree grows in open country; it has dark-green foliage; it grows in pyramid shape; flowers white or pale yellow.
Common in Macuata. A large tree with sharply-marked buttresses.
A shrub with very fragrant flowers, used as garlands.
Bark used in conjunction with that of the inner bark of the doi and the scraped roots of the nesi, for rheumatic pains. For indigestion the Fijians also make a wai-ni-mate compounded from the bark of boiboida, wa-kalou and the caradavui. They scrape all these together and mix with cold water. They- 12
regard this decoction as a sure cure. In Nadronga this small tree is called the boboqa; its creamy-white flowers have a strong, but not very agreeable scent, and the berries grow in clusters like elderberries.
This is the Macuata name for the yaka. It is also known as the dakua-salusalu and leweninini.
This tree, which is often 60 feet high, is of erect growth and very dis-similar to the nokonoko, near which it may sometimes be found; the timber is good; also called kucau and velau.
Often spelt phonetically Thotho. An exquisite flowering shrub, the blossoms are very white and of delicate tubular form in loose panicles, and fragrant at night; leaves alternate, lanceolate; the whole shrub is slender.
A small tree with conspicuous cymose inflorescence and large leaves, three main nerves marked on under-side.
Also called resinga. Bracts, peduncles, calyx all red, corolla white.
Sometimes called savu; timber tree.
Rewa name. See denime and qavinialewa.
Also called kovekove. Flowers are like yellow daisies.
A fine timber tree.
Ornamental plant, very fine flower. Suitable for shrubberies.
Heart-wood finely-grained and durable; ball-like flowers. The delicate salmon-pink of the young leaves is a marked feature. Sometimes known by botanists as the Ptercarpus indicus. The juice of fresh leaves is considered a cure for skin diseases; also used for ulcers, the leaves applied poultice-fashion.
General Fijian name for any grass.
This lemon-oil grass has been introduced, but now is well established in the Fijian group. Natives use coboi in many ways—a kind of tea is made of the leaves (the first water should be thrown away)—pillows stuffed with the dried grass are said to keep mosquitoes away. In Nadronga the steam is also inhaled under a sulu, by those suffering from colds or lung-trouble or neuralgia. Coboi is sometimes called yangiyangi, and in Nadronga it is known as rambu. In Bua there is a small wild variety which the natives call the cobona.
A small species of lemon-grass.
Said to be used as a draunikau medicine in Viti Levu. For explanation of this word see beneviriviri, p. 6.
This pretty red grass is now known as “Holmes grass,” It will spring up readily after fires, even in poor soil.
Culm very erect, a well-known grass.
A common weed with rayed corolla, rays short and narrow, flowers white, called also tumudu by the natives. Leaves taken together with those of the senikaka and pounded make a good poultice, according to the Kai Viti, for wounds and sores.
This sensitive-plant is considered a good fodder-plant; its soft pink flowers are very pretty and look as if they were tiny silk balls.- 14
Regarded as a pest, though its colour is very attractive. It is frequently spoken of as the “blue-ratstail,” but it is sometimes white and rose-madder as well as the more common bright royal-blue.
This well-known grass with erect culms is also called codina.
An elegant variety. Common in the tropics of both hemispheres.
Also called wavuwavu by Fijians. A herb seldom growing to a shrub, white-rayed, yellow-disced flowers.
A herbaceous plant with erect stems, leaves sessile, rayed flowers, (ligulate), a loose-panicle formation of inflorescence. When dry stems make a good torch.
A perennial plant floating in water; leaves are rotund, purple underneath and green above, on long stalks. Flowers whitish with yellow margins.
This is commonly spoken of as “the puzzle-nut tree.” It yields good timber, but requires considerable seasoning before use. In its appearance it is not unlike mahogany and like it, takes a fine polish. These interesting trees are often to be found in mangrove swamps and on sea-beaches. Also called legelege.
Also called wakai. The Fijians make a hot infusion of the leaves, and drink frequently as a cure for stone in the bladder, and pains in the abdomen.
Leaves oval with acute base, sometimes more lanceolate, three-nerved, under-side silky. Flowers in a lax cyme, pale-green. Grows well in mangrove.- 15
A very strange and interesting plant. The flower appears before the leaves, and has a most forbidding odour, yet the bulbous roots was used by Fijians in the past to help their bread (mandrai) to ferment.
A very pretty herbaceous plant, growing in open spaces. See Daumolimoli.
Flowers and fruit are crimson. The tree has very attractive fruit, which grow in shape something like hips and haws in a gigantic bunch, but are not edible; about 6 big cherry-like fruits grow on the stems, which are very thick. The colour of this fruit is deep cerise. Native name for this kind of kavika, also called kala; often spoken of as kavika.
A valuable timber tree, once very plentiful. Often called Fiji kauri, the largest Fiji tree—sometimes 100 feet in height. Timber pale-yellow, fairly easy to work; the gum makadre is of value and is gathered by the natives.
The branches of this tree are very delicate and hang down like graceful fringes. This trembling habit led the observant natives to give to the tree the name of lewenini (nini to tremble). The bark is brown. Also called yaka and tangitangi. A fine timber-tree.
This tree according to Mead is the Podicarpus cupressima. Skyes says, “it is exceedingly rare as a mature tree on the north of the range.”
This wild ginger is used as a medicine in Nadronga. See cangolaya and drove.
This wild ginger is used as a medicine by the Fijians for colds, indigestion, stomach-ache and bladder-troubles, also as a laxative for children. The flowers are small and white, the scales, or bracts turn a rich crimson in the hurricane-season, and have been in consequence given the name hurricane-flower by the European settlers. Old Fijians said that when this- 16
plant, the doi and the gasau all flowered together bad hurricanes would follow. It grows in the bush or on hillsides, near creeks and close to the coast. Usually begins to flower in January and goes on flowering for many weeks; bracts redden in February and March and the seeds are to be seen in April; a very attractive plant at this time as it puts out the red flag of warning and brightens many an otherwise gloomy path under the trees. Dalaheka is the Nadronga name and leyaleya or cangolaya that of the Bua province; it is known as the drove on the Cakaudrove coast.
This esculent root is called by many names, but is best known either as dalo or taro.
Grows from sea level 3,000 to 4,000. A tree with leathery leafage which is reddish when young, but when mature green and smooth. Flowers are on a pedicel, the drupe (fruit) often as large as a cherry. There is a smaller variety which goes by the same name. The timber is very valuable, being close-grained.
A kind of yam—Uvi.
A fairly large tree with mango-like leaves and whitish flowers in loose panicles; drupes small and reddish. The timber is hard, and in old times the natives (Ovalau) used it for canoe-paddles.
This species of Guttiferae has been long in favour on account of the fine quality of the timber it yields. The young leaves when unfolding are a deep-red.
Tamoli or tamola. Herb with mauve flowers and leaves with a pungent smell. Used for coughs and colds; for this a drink is made from the leaves; also valued for stomach-ache and loss of appetite.
A very graceful shrub. Flowers grow in auxiliary panicles, greenish.
Sometimes listed as Crotan Storchii. Leaves are rounded; flowers on a loose panicle, greenish.
1 For the information of non-Fiji readers it should be remembered that in Fiji b represents the sound mb; d, nd; q, ngg; g, ng; and as the last-named is an old friend, ng has been substituted for g.
2 talisiga is dry, treeless ground.