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Cordyline fruticosa

Ti, Auti, Tree of Kings

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Shrub to small tree, usually planted ornamentally, leaves lanceolate, up to70 cm long, variously colored with green, yellow, white, red, pink and purple, panicle up to 1 meter long, flowers sessile, perianth parts 6, pink to white, fruit a deep red globose berry.

Notes: Broadly used by Polynesians; ancient Polynesians cultivated ornamental varieties; used for making clothing, roofing, food wraps; tubers eaten; often planted near Marae and other sacred spots; used medicinally for abscesses, earaches, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and inflammation.


Crinum asiaticum

Eriri lily

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Ornamental shrub, leaves up to 1 meter long, basal and overlapping, flowers white, borne in an umbel, fragrant, up to 30 per umbel, stamens red, long.

Habitat: Ornamental.

Hymenocallis littoralis

Spider lily, Lis blanc

Description: Cultivated ornamental, native to South America, leaves up to 120 cm long, broadest in the middle, flowers white, showy, filaments long, red tipped.

Habitat: Ornamental.


Alocasia macrorrhizos

Ape, Ape veo, Elephant's ear

Photo: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Large herbaceous plants, leaves to more than 1 m long including petiole, leaves with basal lobes often overlapping, inflorescence to 30 cm long, composed of a spadix with white reproductive sections and a beige terminal appendage.

Notes: Common ornamental, occasionally used medicinally.

Colocasia esculenta


Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Cultivated food crop with edible tubers and leaves, tubers large, petioles up to1 meter long, often pink-red, leaves peltate, hastate to saggitate, spathe green to yellow-orange, spadix pistillate basally, staminate apically, sterile in between.

Notes: Staple food crop, tubers used in variety of ways (similar to how potatoes are used); also used to make sweet desserts as well; leaves eaten like spinach; occasional medicinal use.

Arecaceae (Palmae)

Cocos nucifera

Niu, Haari, Tumu Ha'ari, Ahuahupuru, Coconut, Cocotier

Description: Cultivated food crop, tall palm, trunks often curved, leaves 6 m long or longer, pinnae roughly 1 meter long, inflorescence up to 2 meters long, staminate flowers yellow, pistillate flowers thick and globose, fruit orange at maturity.

Notes: Staple food, former cash crop for Moorea, coconut "milk", copra (meat), and oil (pressed from copra) all used in a variety of ways; oil used for massage, hair, and tanning oils, essential ingredient of "monoi" oils produced in the Society Islands; milk used as base for many medicines; roots used for various ailments. The variety called "ahuahupuru" has a sweet edible husk and is used in some medicinal preparations as well.


Ananas comosus

Painapo, Painapu, Pineapple, Ananas

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Food crop, grown ornamentally on the Gump Station property, short-stemmed herb reaching 1 meter in height, leaves in dense rosettes, margins toothed, inflorescence capped by rosette of leaves, flowers numerous, densely clustered, forming syncarp with yellow edible flesh.

Notes: Food and juice crop; fruit used fresh for juicing, preserving, fruit salads, mixed drinks, etc.; dried fruit also eaten; contains enzyme bromelain, similar in use to papain from Papaya (Carica papaya); the pineapple variety of French Polynesia is known as "Queen Tahiti" and is smaller and sweeter than the more common larger pineapples grown for juice.


Commelina diffusa


Photo: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Herb, erect or decumbent, rooting at nodes, leaves fully sheathing stems, inflorescence typically 1-3 flowered, flowers 3-petaled, blue to violet, 3 stamens and 3 staminodes.

Notes: Weedy species, but probably an aboriginal introduction. Commonly grows with taro because of its preference for wet habitats.


Cyperus compressus

Description: Tufted annual sedge with fibrous roots, culms erect, 3-sided, leaves basal, shorter than culm, spikelets 3-12 on up to 5 rays subtended by leaf-like bracts, fruit a 3-sided achene.

Cyperus rotundus

Description: Perennial sedge with long stoloniferous rhizomes arising from scaly tubers, leaves few, basal, inflorescence a loose cluster of up to 8 unequal rays subtended by 2-3 bracts, fruit a 3-sided achene.

Fimbristylis cymosa


Description: Perennial sedge from short rhizome, culms thin, tufted, glabrous, inflorescence variously compound subtended by up to 5 bracts, 1 or 2 leaf-like, fruit a pitted achene.

Kyllinga nemoralis

Mo'u Upo'o, Matie upo'o, Matie tahiti, Mo'u upo'onui, Kyllinga

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Perennial, creeping via rhizomes, culms basally leafy, up to 50 cm tall, though generally much shorter, inflorescence a white terminal globose head subtended by 3 or 4 spreading bracts, fruit an achene.

Notes: Used for sprains and other injuries.


Dioscorea alata


Ufi, Uhi, Ubi, Patara, White Yam

Description: Climbing vine, clockwise twining, growing from long, edible tubers, stems quadranglar, winged, leaves opposite, ovate-cordate, veins all starting from the same point basally and reconnecting apically, produces turbinate bulbils, perianth green-yellow.

Notes: Prefers rocky slopes, fences, or low ground-cover as a substrate; disturbed areas.

Dioscorea bulbifera

Hoi, Igname, Bitter Yam, Air Potato

Photos: 1 2

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Climbing vine with short, bifurcated tubers with bright blue-purple flesh eaten only in time of famine, leaves alternate, stems glabrous, reddish-green, cylindrical to quadrangular but not winged, producing axillary bulbils, pistillate and staminate flowers borne on different spikes.


Heliconia bihai, rostrata, and other spp.

Heliconia, Lobster-Claw, Sexy-Pink, Balisier, Hanging Lobster Claws

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Ornamental shrub, flowers erect (pendulous in H. rostrata), alternating on large inflorescence, petals fused into boat-shaped keel, red to pink, often with yellow to green tips or interiors, leaves with prominent midrib, long ovate.


Halophila ovalis

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2002

Description: Marine monocot, rooting at the nodes, leaves to 5 cm long, elliptic, male and female flowers separate.

Notes: Halophila decipiens, a similar species that could also be present in the lagoons of Moorea, is distinguished by having finely dentate leaf margins.


Musa cultivars (including M. x paradisiaca ssp. sapientium)

Meia, Banana, Bananier

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Tree-sized herb with huge leaves, the leaf bases forming a pseudo-trunk, leaves commonly 1-2 meters long, inflorescence pendulous, purple to maroon bracts containing pistillate and staminate flowers, producing sterile fruit in many varieties.

Notes: Cultivated fruit crop used for a variety of culinary purposes; fruit applied to rashes and inflammation; Varieties grown on Moorea: Fei, Hamoa (and Tei Tei (tall) cultivar), Maohi (and Hei, Pauratia, and Tavara cultivars), Puruini (and Fei, Rehu, and Tahiti cultivars), Rima Rima, Rio, Yangambi, and some newer hybrids.


Malaxis resupinata


Description: Terrestrial orchid to .5 m tall, 3-5 leaved with sheathing petioles, flowers maroon, petals white to maroon, sepals yellow to maroon, fruit an obovoid capsule.

Oberonia tahitensis

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Endemic epiphytic orchid, leaves basal, to 10 cm long, oblong-acute, flowers borne in a raceme, flowers yellow to brown, labellum split into two lobes.

Spathoglottis plicata

Photos: 1 2 3 4

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

Description: Terrestrial orchid, up to about 1 meter tall, leaf blades long elliptic 50-80 cm long, veins 7-9, inflorescence with many flowers, flowers deep pink, labellum 3-lobed, petals sometimes with a single notch below the apex on distal margin.

Notes: The most common orchid in the Society Islands, recently introduced. Oddly not included in Welsh's Flora Societensis (1998). Spreads rapidly.

Taeniophyllum fasciola


Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Endemic epiphytic orchid, with spreading, photosynthetic roots, inflorescence short, flowers yellow-white.

Vanilla planifolia


Vanira, Vanilla, Vanille
"Vanilla tahitensis"

Description: Climbing vine, leaves alternate, glossy, lanceolate to elliptic, flowers green-yellow, fragrant, uncommon, bilateral, petals smaller than sepals.

Notes: Still moderate cash crop for Tahiti, some still grown on Moorea; labor-intensive food crop; beans used for flavoring world-wide; main sources for vanilla are Madagascar (Bourbon), Mexico and Central America, and Tahiti (Madagascar and Tahiti considered premier quality). Some argument over the species in the Society Islands, but general consensus is that the so-called Vanilla tahitensis is either a hybrid or a cultivar name.


Freycinetia impavida

Fara pepe, Ieie, Iare

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Climbing vine, leaves long lanceolate with spiked midrib, spreading asexually via complex networks of stolons (see Des Marais, 1999), flowers and fruit rare.

Pandanus tectorius

Fara, Screwpine, Pandanus

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

Description: Shrub to tree, branches erect with conspicuous aerial prop roots, leaves clustered at branch tips, leaves linear, commonly 1 meter long, bearing spikes along margin and midrib, staminate spadices elliptic, pistillate spadices pedunculate, fruit a large conglomerate head.

Notes: Fruit edible, but not commonly eaten; leaves used extensively for thatch roofing, weaving, etc.; root tips used medicinally for variety of ailments. This genus contains anywhere from 1 to 500 spp. depending on the circumscription.

Poaceae (Gramineae)

Chrysopogon aciculatus


Papapa, Golden Grass, Golden Beardgrass

Description: Creeping, mat-forming perennial grass spreading via stolons, culms erect to ascending, leaves mostly basal, inflorescence a loose panicle, spikelets 3, purple, 1 sessile, glumes as long as spikelet, the upper with a short awn, second lemna with one long awn.

Cynodon dactylon


Bermuda grass

Description: Rhizome spreading lawn grass, culms erect or ascending, often red-green, leaf slightly hairy, inflorescence a whorl of 3-7 racemes with a purple hue, lemnas ovate, keeled.

Echinochloa colona


Barnyard Grass, Jungle Rice

Description: Tufted annual grass, culms erect or ascending, leaf glabrous to minutely hairy, inflorescence a panicle of alternating compact racemes with red-maroon color, glumes ovate.

Eleusine indica


Tamamau, Goose grass

Description: Tufted annual grass forming clumps, culms prostrate to ascending, leaf folded along conspicuous midrib, inflorescence a whorl of 4-6 spikes with one extra spike arising visibly below the others, spikelets 3-7 flowered, glumes lanceolate-ovate.

Melinus repens


Natal Grass, Natal Redtop

Description: Annual grass, culms loosely tufted, erect, leaf extends horizontally from near midpoint of culm, inflorescence a red-pink oblong panicle with ascending branches, spikelets with long hairs.

Oplismenus compositus

Basket grass

Photo: Anya Hinkle 2000

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.

Paspalum conjugatum


Sour Paspalum, T-Grass, Hilo Grass

Description: Creeping perennial grass, culms erect, spreading via reddish stolons, leaves mostly glabrous, inflorescence consisting of two spreading racemes, lower glume absent.

Paspalum paniculatum



Description: Perennial grass, culms erect to ascending, up to 1 meter long, leaves up to 40 cm long, partially hairy with long hairs basally, inflorescence consisting of 15-20 spreading racemes, lower glume absent.

Paspalum scrobiculatum



Description: Tufted perennial grass, culms erect, leaves narrow, up to 25 cm long, inflorescence a panicle of 2-6 spikes, spreading or ascending, spikelets brown.

Schizostachyum glaucifolium


Photos: 1 2

Photos: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Giant bamboo frequently over 10 meters tall; only large bamboo present on Moorea.


Alpinia purpurata

Opuhi, Red ginger

Photos: 1 2 3 4

Photo 1: Andy Murdock 1999
Photo 2: Anya Hinkle 2000
Photo 3: Keleigh A. Allen 2000
Photo 4: Vicente Garcia 2002

Description: Ornamental herb, leaves up to 70 cm long, inflorescence terminal, up to 20 cm long, consisting of bright red-pink bracts mostly concealing white flowers, capsules subglobose.

Notes: Grown ornamentally for its bright, showy bracts.

Zingiber zerumbet

Moeruru, Rea, Wild ginger, Gingembre sauvage, Gingembre d'oceanie

Photo: Andy Murdock 1999

Description: Leafy stems to 2 m tall, leaves to 50-60 cm long, lanceolate, inflorescence borne on separate stems, bracts maturing to red, corolla white to yellow.

Notes: Common forest species.

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