Beach Cordia (Fijian: Nawanawa)

Beach Cordia (Fijian: Nawanawa)

Cordia subcordata (Boraginaceae)

Characteristics

Small tree, up to 10 m. Leaves ovate, 8-20 cm long. Flowers orange, form tubes. Blooming occurs throughout the year, but most flowers are produced in the spring. Fruits buoyant for long distance transport by ocean currents.

Distribution

Beach Cordia occurs in Eastern Africa, Southeast Asia, Northern Australia and the Pacific Islands. Grows in coastal areas.

Natural Medical Properties

No known.

Did you know?

The seeds are edible and have been eaten during famine. Related (same family) to “forget-me-not” (Myosotis sp.) and “Octopus bush” (Heliotropium foertherianum; #91)

Further reading:

Literature

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

Musk fern

Musk fern

Microsorum scolopendria (Polypodiaceae)

Characteristics

Like most ferns, they grow from rhizomes, rather than roots. It forms so called “sori” on the underside of the leaf (brown spots). There, it produces the spores, important for propagation.

Distribution

Native to the Western Pacific rim from Australia to New Caledonia to Fiji and throughout the South Pacific to French Polynesia.

Natural Medical Properties

No known.

Did you know?

The musk fern was introduced in Hawaii in the late 1910s and has subsequently naturalized rapidly.

Further reading:

Literature

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

Pacific Rosewood / Portia Tree

Pacific Rosewood / Portia Tree

Thespesia populnea (Malvaceae)

Characteristics

Small tree or shrub, up to 10 m tall. Able to grow in various soil types of coastal environments, including soils derived from sand, limestone and basalt. Heartwood dark reddish brown.

Distribution

Native to the “Old World” tropics. Today pantropical, found on coasts around the world. Introduced to Pacific Islands from Southeast Asia in prehistoric times by Austronesians (canoe plant).

Natural Medical Properties

Portia tree is often used in traditional medicine, where the bark, root, leaves, flowers and fruits are all used to treat
a range of ailments. There has been some research into its properties, which tends to support these traditional uses.
The heartwood contains several sesquiterpenoid quinones, including mansonone D and H, thespone and thespesone, which are known to induce contact dermatitis, to inhibit tumour formation and to have antifungal properties.
The heartwood and other plant parts contain gossypol.The fruits and leaves contain compounds with antibacterial activity, whereas methanolic extracts of the flower
buds have shown antifungal activity.

Ethanol extracts of the flower have shown antihepatotoxic activity.

Aqueous extracts of the fruit have shown wound-healing activity in rats after topical or oral administration.

The seed oil has anti-amoebic activity.

The heartwood is carminative. It is useful in treating pleurisy, cholera, colic and high fevers.

The fruit juice is used to treat herpes.

The crushed fruit is used in a treatment for urinary tract problems and abdominal swellings.

The cooked fruit, crushed in coconut oil, provides a salve, which, if applied to the hair, will kill lice.

An extract of the fruit is applied to swollen testicles.

A leaf tea is taken as a treatment for rheumatism and urinary retention.

A decoction of the leaves is used in treating coughs, influenza, headache and relapses in illnesses.

The leaf sap, and decoctions of most parts of the plant, are used externally to treat various skin diseases.

Juices from the pounded fruits, mixed with pounded leaves are used in a poultice to treat headaches and itches.

A decoction of the bark and fruit is mixed with oil and used to treat scabies.
A decoction of the astringent bark is used to treat dysentery and haemorrhoids, and a maceration of it is drunk for colds.

A cold infusion of the bark is used in treating dysentery, diabetes, gonorrhoea, yellow urine, and thrush.

Indigestion, pelvic infection, dysmenorrhoea, infertility, secondary amenorrhoea, appetite loss, ulcers and worms are also treated with the bark.

The inner bark is used to treat constipation and typhoid.

The stem is employed in treating breast cancer.

Other extracts of the plant have significant antimalarial activity.

Leaf and bark decoctions are taken as a remedy for high blood pressure.

Seeds are purgative.

Did you know?

The Portia trees were regarded as sacred in Polynesian culture and were commonly planted in “marae” sites (religious places) along with other trees like Ficus (#26 and #81) or Calophyllum inophyllum (#34).

Further reading:

Literature

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

Ylang-Ylang (Fijian: Mokosoi)

Ylang-Ylang (Fijian: Mokosoi)

Cananga odorata (Annonaceae)

Characteristics

Fast-growing tree (can grow more than 5 m per year). Evergreen leaves, smooth and glossy. Flower with six narrow, greenish-yellow petals, rather like a sea star in appearance. Flowers with highly fragrant essential oil.

Distribution

Native from India to Southeast Asia up to Australia. Commonly grown in Madagascar, Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia and the Comoros Islands.

Natural Medical Properties

The flowers, and the essential oil obtained from them, are antipruritic, antifungal, antiseptic and sedative, relieving tension, lowering blood pressure and reducing fever.

They are also said to be aphrodisiac.

The dried flowers are used in the treatment of malaria and the fresh flowers are made into a paste for treating asthma.

Applied externally, they are used to treat skin irritations, conjunctivitis, boils and gout.

They are added to bath water to treat impotence and frigidity.

The essential oil is important in aromatherapy, where it is used in the treatment of tachycardia, rapid breathing, hypertension, gastrointestinal infections and psycho-sexual complaints.
The flowers are harvested of a night time and dried for infusions or distilled for their essential oil.
The leaves are used in a treatment for diarrhoea in infants.

The leaves are also used in a remedy for treating boils.

They are rubbed on the skin to treat itch.
The bark is applied against scurf.

An infusion of the bark is used for treating stomach ailments such as pains, indigestion and colic.

Fluid from the pressed bark is used in treating toothaches and migraine headaches.
The seed has been used externally to cure intermittent fever.

Did you know?

The Ylang-Ylang tree is valued for the perfume extracted from its flowers. It is an essential oil and used in perfumery for oriental- or floral-themed perfumes (such as Chanel No. 5). The oil is also used in aromatherapy.

Further reading:

Literature

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

Mahogany

Mahogany

Swietenia cf. macrophylla (Meliaceae)

Characteristics

Tree with strong wood. Leaves large (up to 45 cm) with even numbered leaflets. Fruits are called “sky fruits” because of its upwards growth towards the sky, up to 40 cm long, in a capsule. Each fruit capsule could contain 71 winged seeds (7-12 cm).

Distribution

Native to South America and Mexico, but naturalized in the Philippines, Singapore and Hawaii. Futher, it is cultivated in plantations elsewhere.

Natural Medical Properties

No known.

Did you know?

Unlike mahogany sourced from its native locations in South America and Mexico, plantation mahogany grown in Asia is not restricted in trade.

Mahogany wood is strong and is used for furniture, musical instruments, ships, doors, coffins and decors.

Further reading:

Literature

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

Leba (Fijian: Lembalemba, Mamba)

Leba (Fijian: Lembalemba, Mamba)

Syzygium cf. neurocalyx (Myrtaceae)

Characteristics

Small tree, 3-6 m high. Flowers white, in clusters of 2-6, flower tube purplish. Leaves up to 15 cm long. Fruit 6 cm in diameter, green.

Distribution

Native to southwest Pacific.

Natural Medical Properties

No known.

Did you know?

Closely related (same genus) to Malay rose apple (Syzygium malaccense, # 10) and clove (Syzygium aromaticum)

Further reading:

Literature

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

Chinese lantern tree (Fijian: Evuevu)

Chinese lantern tree (Fijian: Evuevu)

Hernandia nymphaeifolia (Hernandiaceae)

Characteristics

Tree, 5-22 m tall. Leaves ovate with 5-9 palmate veins. Flowers white or greenish with fragrant odour. Fruit fleshy and waxy, red or white. It is believed to be seed dispersed by flying foxes (bats).

Distribution

It occurs throughout the tropics, exclusively in coastal areas.

Natural Medical Properties

No known.

Did you know?

The Chinese lantern tree has a light, perishable wood and has been used for many things, like fishing rods, fish net floats, wooden sandals, fan handles, furniture etc.

Further reading:

Literature

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

Tiger’s claw (Fijian: Drala, Segai)

Tiger’s claw (Fijian: Drala, Segai)

Erythrina variegata (Fabaceae)

Characteristics

Thorny, deciduous tree, growing up to 25 m tall. Leaves pinnate with three leaflets (each up to 20 cm long and broad). Dense clusters of red flowers and black seeds. It is valued as an ornamental tree.

Distribution

Native to the tropical and subtropical regions of eastern Africa, India, northern Australia and the Island of the Indian and Pacific Ocean east to Fiji.

Natural Medical Properties

No known.

Did you know?

The seeds are poisonous in their raw state, but can be cooked and eaten.

Further reading:

Literature

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

Tamanu (Fijian: Dilo)

Tamanu (Fijian: Dilo)

Calophyllum inophyllum (Calophyllaceae)

Characteristics

Large, low-branching, slow-growing, evergreen tree, containing essential oils (culturally important tamanu oil). Crown broad and irregular. Usually 10-20 m tall. White flowers. Fruit is a round, green drupe (2-4 cm) with one single seed.

Because of ist decorative leaves, fragrant flowers and spreading crown, it is a famous ornamental plant around the world.

Distribution

Native to tropical Asia. Now, widely cultivated in all tropical regions of the world.

Natural Medical Properties

Commonly used in traditional medicine. Many of these uses have been supported by modern research into the plant.

Coumarins isolated from the leaves and seeds have been shown to be inhibitors of HIV type 1. They might also be valuable as cancer chemo-preventive agents.

Seed extracts showed significant molluscicidal activity; the hydroxy acid caliphyllid acid was isolated as the active compound.

The ether extract of the leaves showed piscicidal activity.

The oil has cicatrizing properties, explaining its traditional and modern use in a wide range of skin problems.

The oil has also shown anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antibacterial and insecticidal activity.

It stimulates phagocytosis of cells of the reticulo-endothelial system and has protective activity on the vascular system.

Clinical tests showed that the oil may reduce old scars.

The refined oil, which is pale yellow, has strongly diminished medicinal properties.

The bark is astringent and contains 11 – 19% tannins and is reportedly antiseptic and disinfectant.

The oleoresin from the bark, which contains benzoic acid, shows cicatrizing properties.
A root decoction is traditionally used to treat ulcers, boils and ophthalmia.
The bark is used to treat orchitis.
The latex is rubbed on the skin in the treatment of rheumatism and psoriasis.

The latex and pounded bark are applied externally on wounds, ulcers and to treat phthisis, orchitis and lung affections, and are also used internally as a purgative, after childbirth and to treat gonorrhoea.
The resin is used to treat wounds and insect bites.
A leaf infusion is used to treat sore eyes, haemorrhoids and dysentery.

Heated leaves are applied as a poultice to cuts, sores, ulcers, boils and skin rash.

The leaves are used in inhalations to treat migraine and vertigo.

The seed oil is applied externally as an analgesic against rheumatism and sciatica, and as a medication against swellings, ulcers, scabies, ringworm, boils and itch.
The flowers are used as a heart tonic

Did you know?

Due to its importance as a source of timber (traditional shipbuilding), it has been spread in prehistoric times by the migrations of the Austronesian peoples to the islands of Oceania and Madagascar.

Further reading:

Literature

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

Rosemary

Rosemary

Salvia rosmarinus (Lamiaceae)

Characteristics

Woody, evergreen, perennial herb. Fragrant, needle-like leaves (essential oils). Flowers white, pink, purple or blue.

Rosemary is used as one of the most famous herbs in the culinary arts, but also as an attractive and drought-tolerant ornamental plant in gardens and parks.

Distribution

Native to the Mediterranean region, today widespread in tropical, subtropical and temperate regions around the world.

Natural Medical Properties

No known.

Did you know?

The name «rosemary» derives from Latin «ros marinus» (“dew of the sea”).

Rosemary may have pest control effects in gardens.

Further reading:

Literature

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