Dicots M-Z

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Gossypium barbadense

Vavai, Cotton, Sea Island Cotton

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Shrub, 1-2 meters tall, leaves mostly glabrous, palmately 3-lobed, corolla yellow to pink, fruit usually 4-valved with large amounts of white lint emerging upon opening which is used for production of textiles.

Notes: The species on the Moorea may indeed be Gossypium hirsutum (aka. G. taitense, G. religiosum) however the distinction between G. barbadense and G. hirsutum is slight. G. barbadense is known to have been introduced from America and G. hirsutum has been collected in Tahiti as far back as Banks and Solander on the first voyage of Captain James Cook. Used as an antiseptic in Tonga.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

Aute, Aute-Maohi,
Aute U'Umu, Hibiscus, Rose of China, Jamaica Flower, Chinese Hibiscus, Shoeblack Plant

Photos: 1 2 3 4 5

Photo 1: Andy Murdock 1999
Photo 2: Anya Hinkle 2000
Photos 3-5: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Common ornamental shrub, leaves ovate to lanceolate, minorly stellate-hairy, margin dentate to serrate, flowers solitary, petals 5, stamens twisted and fused into a well-exserted staminal column, corolla usually bright red, at times pink, purple, orange, yellow, or white.

Notes: Pediatric ailments; nausea, vomiting. The Hibiscus of commerce, used in herbal teas and as a food coloring. Also a very common ornamental plant with many varieties.

Hibiscus schizopetalus

Aute farero, Japanese hibiscus

Photo: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Shrub to several meters tall, leaves mostly ovate with an acute-acuminate apex, glabrous, typically serrate, flowers pendulous, solitary, petals heavily dissected, red to pink or occasionally orange to yellow, often suffused with white.

Notes: Introduced ornamental, likely from tropical Africa.

Hibiscus tiliaceus ssp. hastatus

Purau, Burao, Fau, Hau, Faurau Maire

Photos: 1 2 3 4

Photos 1, 3-4: Anya Hinkle 2000
Photo 2: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Abundant tree, found from the ocean up to the highest points on Moorea, trunks of soft white wood, leaves up to 30 cm long, cordate with acuminate apices, sepals 5, petals 5, yellow to yellow-orange with dark maroon-purple basally, the yellow fading to pink-red with age, stamens fused into staminal column, can be observed growing in a mangrove-like fashion.

Notes: The wood is used for carving, boat making, floats, firewood, fibers used for rope and net making; medicinal value mostly topical for sores and cuts.

Photos: 1-2 - The most common form; 3-4 - other leaf varieties commonly seen

Malvaviscus arboreus

Wax Mallow, Firecracker Hibiscus, Sleeping Hibiscus

Photos: 1 2

Photos: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Low shrubs with alternate leaves, tomentose, leaves ovate, simple to 5-lobed, flowers borne on pendulous peduncles, never fully opening, corolla bright red, stamens fused into staminal column, slightly exserted.

Thespesia populnea

Miro, Amae, Milo, Pacific Rosewood, Portia-Tree, Bois de Rose-Oceanie

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Short trees, leaves with stipules, leaves ovate-cordate to deltoid, glabrous, flowers solitary, white to yellow with maroon center, stamens fused into staminal column, fruit a capsule with multiple seeds and yellow sap used medicinally for centipede stings and other skin ailments, purportedly a symbol of peace to Tahitians.

Notes: Valuable carving wood; symbol of peace in Tahiti, planted near Marae; crushed fruit and sap used for various skin ailments (rashes, ringworm, stings) and headaches.


Miconia calvescens


Photos: 1 2

Photos: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Trees or shrubs commonly reaching 5 meters tall, leaves prominently 3-veined with many smaller lateral veins, leaves with a maroon underside and a green top, flowers borne in cymes.

Notes: Terrible weed in the Society Islands. Should be removed whenever possible by pulling it up including the roots and left hanging upside-down to prevent re-rooting.


Artocarpus altilis

Uru, Uru Maohi, Maiore, Uru Anahonaho, Breadfruit, Arbor a Pain

Photos: 1 2

Photos: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Large tree, branches heavily marked with leaf and stipule scars, leaves commonly 60 cm long, ovate in outline, deeply pinnately lobed, leaves thick, staminate and pistillate flowers borne in spikes, fruit large, roughly spherical with a patterned surface, emitting large amounts of latex upon being picked.

Notes: Widely grown tree with edible fruit which tastes almost, but not quite, entirely unlike bread. Fruit eaten commonly, source of carbohydrates and B vitamins. The fruit is usually prepared by baking it and removing the seeds but can also be sweetened and made into a jam-like desert spread. Wood used for construction of houses and boats; inner bark used to make fabric. Latex used for rashes and other skin ailments, also for sprains and other injuries; juice from leaves used for earaches. Used for a variety of other ailments.

Ficus prolixa & elastica

Photos: 1 2 3

Photos: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Giant banyan with adventitious prop-roots and buttresses, leaves up to 45 cm long, oblong-elliptic, glossy, stipules pink, forming figs in axillary, sessile clusters.

Notes: Both species common, Ficus elastica being a recent introduction.

Photos: 1-2 - Ficus elastica; 3 - Ficus prolixa


Psidium guajava

Tuava, Tumu Tuava, Tuvava, Guava, Goyavier

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Shrub to small tree, partly woody, young stems rectangular, leaves up to 20 cm long, elliptic, veins impressed from above, leaves irregularly yellow-green, flowers white with many stamens, fruit globose, yellow with pink or yellow flesh, native to the Pacific, grows like a weed in exposed areas.

Notes: Frequently used for delicious fruit, usually used in juices or jams due to annoying amount of hard seeds; tannins in plant make it useful as an astringent; used mostly for digestive ailments; mashed shoots used as a styptic; used for a variety of women's ailments.

Metrosideros collina


Photo: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Shrub to small tree, leaves variously pubescent, variously elliptic to obovate to lanceolate, flowers in terminal cymes with showy red to red-orange stamens.

Habitat: Mid- to high-elevation exposed areas (i.e. ridges and fernland).

Notes: Not noticeably reproducing, reproduction possibly hindered by acres of Dicranopteris linearis that commonly surrounds it.

Syzygium cuminii

Pistache, Pistachier, Pistas, Jamelonier, Jamelonguier

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Large tree, glabrous leaves and stems, leaves lanceolate, flowers with 4 white petals borne in cymes with generally at least 3 flowers, stamens many, pink, fruit ovoid, purple to black.

Syzygium jambos

Ahia popaa, Rose-Apple, Jambosier, Pommier rose

Photo: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Trees or shrubs, leaves lanceolate, petals 4, white, stamens white, showy, fruit resembles a small apple.

Syzygium malaccense

Ahia tea, Ahia ura, Ahia tahiti, Malay Apple

Photos: 1 2

Photos: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Trees or shrubs, leaves oblong with acuminate apices, petals 4, pink to purple, stamens pink to red, very showy, fruit resembles a small apple and may be red or white.

Habitat: Common understory shrub/tree in Inocarpus forest.


Bougainvillea glabra & spectabilis

Tiare vareau, Bougainvillea

Photos: 1 2 3 4 5

Photo 1: Anya Hinkle 2000
Photos 2-5: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: B. glabra: Low shrub, glabrous, weakly spinose, leaves elliptic with acuminate tip, flowers partially concealed by conspicuous, showy bracts usually colored red to magenta, sometimes white, common ornamental plant. B. spectabilis: Description: Shrub, tomentose, stem with curved spines, flowers partially to completely concealed by papery bracts much like B. glabra with similar color variation.


Nymphaea capensis (& lotus)

Cape blue waterlily

Photos: 1 2 3

Photo 1: Vicente Garcia 2002
Photos 2-3: Keleigh A. Allen 2000

Description: N. capensis: Aquatic waterlily, orbicular floating leaves, flowers opening in the morning, petals lavender (bluish) to white.
N. lotus: As above, flowers opening at night, petals white.

Notes: N. lotus is not known from Moorea at this time, but is present on several other islands.

Photos: 1-2 - N. capensis; 3 - N. lotus from Papeete, Tahiti


Ludwigia octovalvis

Raau papaa, Primrose-Willow

Photos: 1 2 3

Photo 1: Anya Hinkle 2000
Photos 2-3: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Herbaceous perennial, leaves alternate, leaves narrowly lanceolate, flowers solitary, petals 4, yellow, notched at the tip, 4 lanceolate sepals alternate petals, stamens 8, surrounding stigma, fruit an 8-ribbed capsule.


Oxalis corniculata


Patoa avaava, Patoa ahia, Wood Sorrel

Description: Perennial creeper, leaves palmately trifoliate, blades obcordate, flower petals 5, oblanceolate and yellow, stamens 10, 5 long, 5 short, 5 styles, fruit pubescent, 5-lobed, cylindrical with acute tip.

Notes: Used for wounds, sore throats, swelling of the tongue. Introduced widespread weed.


Passiflora foetida


Pua Manini, Puka Heahea, Wild Water-Lemon, Love-in-a-Mist, Running Pop

Description: Densely hairy vine with fetid odor (hence the name), tendrils coiled, leaves alternate, 3-lobed, margins wavy, flowers solitary, sepals 5, white internally, surrounded by pinnately branching bracts, petals 5, white, stamens 5, corona white with purple basally, stigmas 3, fruit a globose red-orange berry surrounded by persistent bracts.

Passiflora quadrangularis


Para Pautini, Giant Granadilla

Description: Liana with rectangular stems, tendrils long, leaves glabrous, ovate to elliptic, entire, petals white with pink markings, corona with purple bands, stamens 5, stigmas 3, fruit a green berry up to 30 cm long.

Notes: Fruit an edible type of Passionfruit. Leaves used for cuts in Tonga.

Passiflora suberosa

Photos: 1 2 3

Photos: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Tiny vine with highly variable three-lobed leaves (usually developing broadly tridentate - almost bat-shaped - then narrowing with age), leaves ofetn with trasparent dots (perhaps glands or extrafloral nectaries?), flowers 1-2 cm wide, mostly white-green, no colored petals, corona sometimes purple.

Habitat: Found at higher elevations in moist habitats.


Macropiper latifolium

Photos: 1 2

Photos: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Shrubs to several meters tall, jointed stems with swollen nodes, leaves cordate to orbicular, basal sinus of varying depth, margin crenate-wavy, veins palmate, spikes 2-3 per node, axillary, plants dioecious.

Peperomia pallida (and other spp.)

Photos: 1 2 3 4

Photos: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Small, fleshy herbs, glabrous to lightly hairy, leaves elliptic with 3 (5) main veins with a more prominent midrib, palmately arranged, spikes axillary or terminal.

Piper methysticum

Ava, Kava, Kava kava

Photos: 1 2 3

Photos: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Shrubs to several meters tall, jointed stems with swollen nodes, leaves cordate to ovate, apex acuminate, veins palmate with 3 originating slightly above the rest, spikes opposite leaves, plants dioecious.

Notes: Roots (and stems) used medicinally throughout the Pacific and grown commercially for export to the U.S. and elsewhere, mild euphoriant and anesthetic, also a mild sedatative, active principles are lactones (kavalactones). Traditional use has become uncommon in most of Eastern Polynesia because of availability of beer and other alcoholic beverages. Kava is sterile and there is only one sex of the plant known to exist, so reproduction is asexual.


Canthium barbatum

Torotea, Toroea

Photos: 1 2

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Small understory tree with leaves resembling those of coffee. Leaves opposite, 6.5-11cm long, 3-7cm wide with short petioles (<1cm) and a sweeping acuminate tip. Leaves subsend cymes of several flowers on thin pedicels, especially at the ends of branches. Flowers are approximately 1cm in diameter, white, stiff, with 5 pointed petals and hairs in the throat. Fruits are red and peanut-sized with a hard stone inside.

Gardenia taitensis

Tiare Tahiti, Tiare, Tiare Maohi, Tahitian Gardenia

Photos: 1 2

Photo 1: Anya Hinkle 2000
Photo 2: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Shrub, glabrous, leaves glossy, leaves obovate to oblanceolate, flowers white darkening with age, petals 7 or 8, sometimes 6, calyx 3-4 unequal lobes, stamens equal in number to petals formed, fruit rare, flower highly fragrant, worn decoratively behind the ear of men and women alike, also used in lei making, medicine, perfumery, and has various culinary applications.

Notes: Extensively used by Tahitians for fragrance, leis, etc.; worn behind the ear by men and women; used for nearly every conceivable ailment.

Geophila repens


Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Creeping, prostrate plant, rooting at nodes, leaves reniform, corolla salverform, white, globose drupe maturing to scarlet red.

Notes: Used medicinally as Centella asiatica (with which it shares a Tahitian name due to the similar looking leaves).

Ixora casei

Photo: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Common cultivated shrub, typically 1-3 meters tall, leaves elliptic to oblong, flowers entirely red, borne in cymes, tube 2-3 cm long.

Notes: Ornamental native to eastern Asia.

Morinda citrifolia

Nono, Noni

Photos: 1 2

Photo 1: Anya Hinkle 2000
Photo 2: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Small tree or shrub, leaves opposite, glabrous, up to 45 cm long, elliptic, stems quadrangular, flowers with a sweet scent borne in clusters directly on the developing conglomerate fruit, fruit globose to irregular, green, dense with white flesh with a putrid, acidic taste.

Notes: Used as dye; fruit edible, but not tasty; juice medicinally used for nearly every disease, from boils, to digestion, to blood sugar regulation, to stonefish stings. Sold in U.S. healthfood stores for an equally impressive array of ailments, commonly available from healthfood stores and multi-level marketing companies worldwide.

Mussaenda philippica


Mussaenda, Ashanti Blood

Description: Ornamental shrub, leaves pubescent, ovate to elliptic, opposite, sepals enlarged and pure white, corolla orange, petals 5, stamens yellow, similar to M. erythrophylla in seemingly every way except coloration.

Habitat: Ornamental.


Citrus maxima

Pomelo, Pummelo, Pamplemousse

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Trees to roughly 10 m tall, leaves to 20 cm, ovale to bradly ovate, stipules broadly winged (see picture), flowers with white petals, very fragrant, fruit globular, similar to a large grapfruit, green with green-yellow flesh, bitter-sweet.

Notes: Common, edible fruit. Used frequently for juices, jams, and candied peel.


Dodonaea viscosa


Photo: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Shrubs to trees, leaves simple, lanceolate to oblong, flowers borne in terminal (occasionally axillary) panicles, flowers unisexual, small, plants dioecious, fruit distinctive with 2-4 reddish wings.

Habitat: Higher elevations, often on exposed ridges, commonly associated with Dicranopteris linearis and other pteridophytes.


Chrysophyllum cainito

Star apple, Pommier etoile

Photos: 1 2

Photos: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Trees to 10 m, branchlets coppery, leaf blades elliptic, to 16 cm long, flowers in axillary, umbellate cymes, corolla green-white, ovary sliky, stigma ovoid, fruit fleshy, purple, divided into 1-seeded locules, sweet to taste.

Notes: Fruit edible, not particularly common but available at some local markets.


Wikstroemia foetida

Mou'a, O'ovau, Oaao, Ovau-ao

Photos: 1 2

Photos: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Small trees, with coffee-brown bark, branches have woody bumps at each leaf base which are persistent petioles. Leaves entire, leathery, with a network of translucent lateral veins. Flowers have 4 light green waxy sepals fused into a tube <1cm in length. Petals absent, stamens orange and visible in the throat of the calyx tube.

Habitat: Exposed drier areas with little or no canopy cover, at low elevations, and in association with introduced grasses and herbaceous plants.

Notes: Cathartic.


Boehmeria virgata


Photo: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Shrubs to 5 m tall, with slightly hairy stems (not stinging), leaves ovate to deltoid, margins serrate, white underside, pistillate flowers borne in long, white spikes.

Notes: Native.


Lantana camara

Tatara moa, Lantana

Photos: 1 2

Photo 1: Vicente Garcia 2002
Photo 2: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Weedy herb with dense hair and sharp prickles, leaves ovate, when crushed have a fetid minty odor, flowers borne in a flat head-like spike, corolla salverform, limb spreading, irregular though typical of many flowers of the family, opening yellow and turning pink-red with age, usually making a rainbow of colors on one flower head, grown ornamentally in temperate climes, stamens 4, fruit a shiny purple-black drupe.

Habitat: Aggressive weed, favors dry scarps, frequently found with Psidium guajava (Guava).

Notes: Used as a styptic in Tonga, little used elsewhere; distilled for essential oil in India.

Stachytarpheta urticifolia

Blue rat's-tail

Photos: 1 2

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Common herbaceous weed, stem somewhat woody at times, leaves opposite, ovate to elliptic, acute, upper surface rugose, margin dentate, petiole winged, inflorescence a long spike of embedded flowers, corolla purple, salverform, stamens 2, fruit a nutlet.

Habitat: Roots used for broken bones and other physical injuries in Hawaii.

Notes: Cathartic.

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