Molau yalewa (Fijian: Molau yalewa)

Molau yalewa (Fijian: Molau yalewa)

Phyllanthus cordata (Phyllanthaceae)

 

Characteristics

Evergreen shrub or tree, 3-7 m tall, spreading crown. Grows in dry forests, ridge forests, pastures and along roadsides, at elevations up to 900 meters. The plant flowers and produces fruits all year round.

Distribution

Endemic to Fiji.

Natural Medical Properties

No known.

Did you know?

This species is noteworthy for its pollination mechanism, which involves a symbiotic relationship with moths of the genus Epicephala. This closely parallels that found in Yucca species.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species

Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea sp. (Nyctaginaceae)

Characteristics

The genera Bougainvillea contains 18 different species, all of them thorny ornamental vines, shrubs or trees. The flower-like inflorescence consists of large, colourful, sepal-like bracts (special leaves) which surround three simple waxy flowers. Leaves alternate. Bougainvillea is frost-sensitive and drought-tolerant, making it ideal for warm climates. Its high salt tolerance makes it highly adapted in coastal regions.

Distribution

Native to South America from Brazil to Peru to Argentina. Cultivated in tropical, subtropical and Mediterranean regions around the world.

Natural Medical Properties

The plant contains pinitol, which is helpful in the treatment of non-insulin dependent diabetes.

A study of aqueous and methanolic extracts of the leaves has shown good glucose tolerance and significantly reduced intestinal glucosidase activity, with regeneration of insulin-producing cells and increase in plasma insulin.

Results suggest a potential for the development of new nutraceutical treatment for diabetes.

Did you know?

Many of today’s bougainvillea are the result of interbreeding among only three out of the genera’s eighteen species. Currently, there are over 300 varieties of bougainvillea around the world.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species

Hanging lobster claw

Hanging lobster claw

Heliconia cf. rostrata (Heliconiaceae)

Characteristics

Evergreen, perennial herb, up to 2 m tall. Leaves large, banana-like, leathery, dark green. In spring and summer, showy flower clusters (inflorescence) hang from the stem. Each inflorescence is made up of bright red bracts, each tipped with yellow and green, with yellowish-white flowers inside. The inflorescences last for weeks and are excellent in flower arrangements.

Distribution

Native to Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, Costa Rica and Ecuador, in lowland forest and thickets. Naturalized in Puerto Rico. Currently, this is often used as a specimen for tropical gardens around the world.

Natural Medical Properties

No known.

Did you know?

Other Heliconias (e.g Heliconia cf. psittacorum, #82) grow in the upright position and their cup-shaped flower bracts store water and nectar for birds and insects. This plant, however, has downward-facing flowers. The plant can still provide nectar to birds, especially hummingbirds.

“Hanging lobster claw” is the national flower of Bolivia.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species

False Kava (Fijian: Yaqoyaqona)

False Kava (Fijian: Yaqoyaqona)

Macropiper timothianum (Piperaceae)

Characteristics

Shrub, 1.5-3 m tall. White flowers and red fruits.

Distribution

Grows in Pacific islands like Fiji and Samoa

Natural Medical Properties

No known.

Did you know?

Close related (same subfamily) to Kava (Piper methysticum) and Black Pepper (Piper nigrum).

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species

Screw pines (Fijian: Vadra, Voivoi)

Screw pines (Fijian: Vadra, Voivoi)

Pandanus sp. (Pandanaceae)

Characteristics

Tropical shrubs (1 m) or trees (up to 20 m) with candelabra-like branching and spiny adventitious roots. Leaves and fruit resemble those of the pineapple plant, although they are not closely related. Pandanus are dioecious (male and female flowers produced on different plants).

Distribution

Native to Old World tropics and subtropics.

Natural Medical Properties

A drink made from the aerial roots is given for four days to treat an illness known as “crazy child”, in which the eyes wander. Asthma and back pains are also treated with a filtrate of aerial roots. Liquid squeezed from above ground aerial roots and inner bark is employed in the treatment of heart attack. Fish poisoning is treated with fluid pressed from above ground aerial roots.

Did you know?

Although Pandanus plants are called “Screw pines” or “Screw palms”, they are not closely related to pines or palms.

Pandanus has multiple uses, like source of food and raw material for clothing. Basket weaving and shelter.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species

Breadfruit (Fijian: Buco ni viti, Uto buco)

Breadfruit (Fijian: Buco ni viti, Uto buco)

Artocarpus altilis (Moraceae)

Characteristics

Breadfruit is a species of flowering tree, up to 25 m tall. The large and thick leaves are deeply cut into pinnate lobes. The fruits are 0.25-6 kg and very important in standard diet of Pacific islands. All parts of the tree yield latex, which is useful for boat caulking. The tree is monoecious, with male and female flowers growing on the same tree. It is closely related to Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) and Mullberries (Morus sp.). Pollination occurs mainly by fruit bats.

Distribution

Native of tropical Asia (New Guinea, Maluk Islands, Phillipines). Spread by Austronesian voyagers around 3000 years ago into Micronesia, Melanesia (e.g. Fiji) and Polynesia. Therefore, Breadfruit is not native to the Pacific islands.

Natural Medical Properties

Liquid squeezed from the bark is given to remedy chest pain and vomiting resulting from heart trouble. Pressed liquid from the stem bark is employed in the treatment of pain in the maternal postpartum infections. Pressed fluid of the roots is utilized in the treatment of respiratory ailments which include difficult pained breathing. A filtrate of new unfolded leaves is employed as a remedy from fish poisoning.

Did you know?

During Captain Cook’s Endeavour expedition in 1769, Sir Joseph Banks and others saw the value of breadfruit as a highly productive food for slaves in British colonies (up to 200 fruits per season and tree). Therefore, William Bligh sailed as captain of HMS Bounty (“Mutiny on the Bounty”) to the Pacific to collect Breadfruit plants. The introduction in the British colonies was not entirely successful, as most slaves refused to eat the new food.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species

Island Musk (Fijian: Uci)

Island Musk (Fijian: Uci)

Euodia hortensis (Rutaceae)

Characteristics

Shrub or small tree, up to 4 m. Leaves aromatic (essential oils). It flowers and produces fruits all year round.

Distribution

Native to Australasia and Southwest Pacific Islands.

Natural Medical Properties

The leaves are anti-inflammatory, emmenagogue, febrifuge and laxative. They are chewed as a remedy for toothache or stomach pains. An infusion is used to reduce fever.

The crushed leaves are used to prepare a remedial bath.

Liquid from the leaves is used as a remedy for swollen testicles.

The leaves are crushed, mixed with oil and applied to sore gums.

The leaves are also used to cure headache and earache and are heated then rubbed onto bruises.

The bark is sometimes part of an internal remedy that is used to relieve thrush-like conditions, to retard menstruation, and to relieve pain in childbirth.

Fluid from the bark is used to treat a disease whose symptoms are yellow eyes and yellow urine.

The bark may be chewed with betel nuts and rubbed onto aching body parts.
Liquid from the stem is used in treating children with convulsions.
The plant contains essential oils (caryophyllene, alpha-copaene, arcucumene), menthofuran, evodone, hortensol, berberine, furoquinoline and acridone alkaloids.

Did you know?

Island musk is harvested for local use as medicine and perfume. It is commonly planted in home gardens and around villages as an ornamental or ceremonial plant and boundary marker; it is also often planted in cemeteries or burial grounds.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species

Red Bean (Fijian: Tarawau)

Red Bean (Fijian: Tarawau)

Dysoxylum cf. mollissimum (Meliaceae)

Characteristics

Large tree, up to 35 m. Usually buttressed. White flowers. Fruit is a brown capsule, bird attracting.

The tree produces a well-regarded mahogany timber, suited to cabinet work, carving and boat building.

Distribution

It occurs in tropical, sub-tropical and littoral rainforests in Eastern Australia as well as on the Pacific Islands.

Natural Medical Properties

The fruits are used in the treatment of wounds

Did you know?

Related (same family) to Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla, #38). Freshly cut bark has an onion type scent.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species

Red Ginger

Red Ginger

Alpinia purpurata (Zingiberaceae)

Characteristics

Pseudostems, usually about 3 m tall, composed of overlapping leaf-sheaths. Thick rhizoms. Alpinia is the largest genus in the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) with about 230 species.

Red Ginger can be grown in regions like South Florida since, in general, those regions do not fall below freezing temperatures.

Distribution

Native to Malaysia. Today, widespread as ornamental plant, e.g. in Hawaii, Fiji, Panama, Jamaica, Suriname and Belize.

Natural Medical Properties

The fruit is used to treat sores.
A decoction of the leaves is used in the treatment of stomach complaints

Did you know?

Red ginger is the national flower of Samoa, locally called “teuila”.

The red part of the plant is not the true flower but brightly colored bracts (leaves). The true flower is a small white flower on top.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species

Coconut palm (Fijian: Niadamu)

Coconut palm (Fijian: Niadamu)

Cocos nucifera (Arecaceae)

Characteristics

Stems up to 20 m tall, erected or leaning, smooth. Trunk usually somewhat swollen at the base (80 cm), upper diameter about 40 cm. Leaves up to 5 m long. Immature fruits green, yellow or bronzy red. Mature fruits brown.

Distribution

Attributed to Asiatic tropics but now spontaneous and wild around the world and constituting the palm scenery on the littorals of many lands; extensively planted for the yield of edible fruits.

Natural Medical Properties

The stem is scraped and squeezed to produce a liquid given for weakness after childbirth. The juice of the midrib at the lower base of the leaf is strained and given to remedy maternal postpartum illness. Coconut milk produced by grating and squeezing the flesh is used to treat fish poisoning.

Did you know?

Botanically, the fruit of the coconut palm is a drupe (stone fruit), not a nut. The hard, hairy, brown coconut we can buy in the supermarket is botanically analog to the stone of a cherry.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species