6 Soul Blossoming Plants of Fiji

FJ

Fiji is home to a myriad of plants with a multitude of colors and forms, ranging from the delicate orchid and its “sumptuous flowers” scattered around the coastlines and forests, the overlooked fruiting bodies of the fungi with their rich deep colours; to the hardy aromatic wood of the sandalwood a highly prized tree during the Sandlewood era in the 1800s. Such a varied spectacle is often taken for granted by the locals but has never failed to intrigue and amaze wildlife enthusiasts who visit our shores.

Table of Contents

Traditional Perfume Flowers of Fiji

The exploitation of the sweet and exotic fragrance of some of our currently naturalized and native plants has been ongoing since time immemorial after the arrival of some of our ancestors to our shores. These sweet essences are volatile aromatic essential oils that are concentrated in varying levels in different parts of the plants which may include fruits, flowers, leaves, bark, wood, and roots. In Fiji, several dozens of such plants are known to have local uses to enhance fragrance in body lotion and leis.

Table: Traditional Perfume Flowers of Fiji


PhotographBasic Details
Mokosoi Cananga odorataMokosoi Cananga odorata – The plant belongs to the Annonacae family commonly called the Custard-apple family. The clustered and very fragrant flowers are conspicuous with the 6 large pale green to yellowish petals, and the fruits (berry) turning from green to black when mature. Both flowers and fruits are available throughout the year. Traditionally, fragrant flowers are used for scenting body lotions and necklaces. Other parts of the plants may be used for medicinal purposes.
Uci Euodia hortensis

Uci
Uci Euodia hortensis – The plant belongs to the Rutaceae family commonly known as the Rue family or is best known for the citrus fruit. It is a small tree that can grow up to 2m. There are two forms of Uci differing only in one form having a simple leaf and the other, a compound (trifoliate) leaf. The flowers (petals) are white or yellowish, and fruits (a follicle) turn from green to pale brown at maturity. The fruits and flowers are found throughout the year. The leaves and flowers have a strong, pungent fragrance.

It commonly grows in cultivation in towns, and villages and in some areas has naturalized in abandoned villages and secondary forests and thickets. Traditionally, the flowers (Inflorescence) are used in salusalu or leis and casually as tekiteki (flower on the ear) for both men and women and also to scent coconut oil. The leaves are used mostly in salusalu or leis. The plant has many other traditional uses as medicine, keeping spirits away, and as a herbal drink.

YouTube Video: The Hibiscus – Plants of Fiji


The Hibiscus – Plants of Fiji

Fungi


Phillipsia Domingensis - Fungi in Fiji
Phillipsia Domingensis – Fungi in Fiji | Image: Supplied

Fungi are normally overlooked as most of their lives are invisible to the naked human eye, only when the fungi develop large ‘fruiting bodies for the purpose of producing a huge number of spores for reproduction do we see the rich deep colors.

Table: Fungi of Fiji


PhotographDescription
Fiji Fungi Dacryopinax spathularia 1Fan Shaped Jelly Fungus – Dacryopinax Spathularia – This is a jelly fungus with small gelatinous fruitbodies which rarely exceeds a height of one centimeter. They are found in tree stumps and dead wood. Although variable, the fruitbodies are typically petal-shaped and are yellowish-orange when fresh but soon dry up to a reddish brown colour and become hard. They are attached to rotting wood by a short, furry, stern-like base. The fruitbodies are only fertile (produce spores) on one side.
Podoscypha involutaPodoscypha involuta – This is a stalked bracket fungus with a variable colour. It grows in stumps of dead wood and fallen trees. As with most fungi, it grows for the major part of its life cycle as fine strands (hyphae) absorbing nourishment from the material through which it grows, in this case, rotting wood. It produces fruiting bodies on the surface of the wood, 1 to 6cm high and of a similar width. They vary in form from fan-shaped to funnel-shaped. The upper surface is light brown with narrow darker zones. When young, it has a fine furry surface. The lower (or outer) surface, which produces spores, is yellow or orange with a white outer edge. As it becomes older, the whole surface becomes brown.
Lentinus SquarrosulusLentinus squarrosulus – This is one of the most common forms of a larger fungus. The fruiting bodies usually occur in clusters of three to six, but occasionally in clusters of 20 or even 30. The fruitbodies grow rapidly, but only have a short life span and are easily damaged by rain. The caps range from 2 to 7cm in diameter and the stem is about the same length. The whole structure is white and may be recognised by zones of small scales on the cap and stem and by the very crowded gills under the cap.
Scleroderma flavidumScleroderma flavidum – This is found growing in small groups, the young stages being almost buried in the ground. The fruit body is 2 to 4 cm in diameter, usually in the form of a rather flattened sphere and attached on the underside of the soil. The outer skin is initially smooth and a light straw yellow in colour. It later develops cracks and finally splits around the apex into several lobes. The internal brown spore mass is then exposed and spores are carried away by the wind.
Phillipsia DomingensisPhillipsia Domingensis – This fungus is found throughout the tropics. Although it is quite small, it is one of the larger and more conspicuous of the cup fungi, most of which are very small. Its fruiting bodies are found either singly or in groups of 2 to 4 on rotting wood. At first, they are cup-shaped, but later they become flattened into a disc or saucer. The cup is attached directly to the rotting wood or has a very short stalk. The upper surface is fertile, producing spores that are actively shot into the air. This inner surface varies from dull red to reddish-orange and in some cases, a violet colour. It remains smooth or slightly veined. The outer surface is white to cream in colour and has a fine granular or furry surface.

Ferns of Fiji


Ferns of Fiji
Ferns of Fiji | Image: Supplied

Ferns are amongst the most abundant primitive group of vascular plants, pre-dating the ages of the dinosaurs. They have successfully diversified and continue to persist and inhabit any relatively wet areas of any forest system on both continental landmass and island complexes.  Fiji Islands has 301 species of ferns, the majority being native with around 30% endemic. and 4% are exotic.

Table: Ferns of Fiji


Ferns of Fiji
Balabala Cyathea lunulataBalabala (generic term for all trees that occur in Fiji) Cyathea lunulata – this terrestrial tree fern can grow from anywhere between 8-10 meters with recorded observations of 20m tall. , this species can readily be observed from any coastal front to the upland rest system. Its medicinal properties are also well known amongst the people of Beqa as it apparently is a popular remedy for alleviating sore throats. Locals also use trunk scales in buildings and flower pots.
AustralasicumAsplenium australasicum – Locally known as the “bird’s nest”, this is common and is widely familiar to most because of its rosette of spreading leaves that facilitates the trapping and decomposition of humus from plants in the upper canopy. So together with its mass of roots form an effective water-holding sponge for many micro-organisms. Interestingly enough a native species of earthworm and even a skink is known to live in this microenvironment.
Diplazium proliferum.Lalabe Diplazium proliferum – Known to locals generally as Ota, is a large terrestrial fern. It is usually found along or near stream banks but never in very shaded areas. Amongst the locals, the young leaves of this species is a well-known local vegetable delicacy. (Fiji has seven known species)
Diqidiqi Nephrolepis biserrataNephrolepis-biserrata – Locally known as diqidiqi, is a scandent ground fern common in lowland areas (4 species occurring in Fiji), this species is distinguishable by its scaly roots and 5 leaves that grow up to 1 m long and 20cm wide. Traditionally, it has been singled out that the infusion of its leaves with that of kalabuci (Acalypha spp.) eases delivery during pregnancy.

Indigenous Orchids


Fiji Purple Orchid
Fiji Purple Orchid | Image: Supplied

Fiji has about 170 different species of orchids scattered across the islands, of these some 50 are endemic, with many species of exotic oversea orchids being imported and establishing themselves. The defining beauty of the orchid is its “sumptuous flower” with its unbelievable variations in form and color from a large bountiful coloured blossom to small miniature intricate flowers that last as long as one day or occasionally only for a few hours.

Fiji’s native orchids grow at sea level. They can be found on trees hanging over the waves on rocky beaches and also on the highest of mountains. Most prefer the humid shade of the forests where they grow as epiphytes (they grow on trees and rock outcrops for support and light) as well as terrestrials (in the ground).

Table: Indigenous Orchids in Fiji


Liparis layardiiLiparis-layardii – In Fiji, the orchid has only been recorded on Viti Levu. It is the rarest of the eight species that occur here in Fiji. The plant is terrestrial with stems growing to 25cm and an inflorescence (the complete flower head of a plant including stems, stalks, bracts, and flowers) up to 30cm in height and is restricted to the moist and dense forest near the summit of Mt. Koroyanitu (1160m) and the upper slopes of Mt. Tomanivi (1300m). The distinguishing feature of the plant is that its inflorescence is dark purple and its flowers are light purple in color with the male parts having a range of colours from green to white.
Dendrobium catillareDendrobium catillare – The orchid is only found in Fiji (endemic) where it was first discovered in 1860 from Mt. Bukelevu in Kadavu by Seemann. It is one of the nine endemic species in the genus. The plant is an epiphyte growing 50cm long and is found in the dense forest from near sea level to elevations of 1200m. A feature characteristic of the plant is its inflorescences are on older, often defoliated stems, and the flowers are bright pink with the tip segments white.
Dendrobium mohlianumDendrobium mohlianum – is an epiphyte and can grow up to 70cm in dense moist forests at elevations between 300m to 1300m. It is relatively common and can be distinguished by its bright orange to reddish-orange colour and is amongst one of the showiest and most striking coloured orchids in Fiji’s rain forest. The orchid flowers throughout the year.
Glomera montanaGlomera-montana – It was first collected on Gau Island, in Lomaiviti in 1855 by William G. Milne a botanist and naturalist aboard the H.M.S. Herald. The plant is an epiphyte (at times, terrestrial), erects to 1.2m tall and can be found in moist, dense and stunted forests of high ridges at 600 to 1300m elevation. The flower-head comprises 6-15 flowers that are entirely white with a pink or red tinged distal portion of the labellum (lowest of the three petals). Flowers occur from September to February.
Calanthe Ventilabrum.Calanthe Ventilabrum – The orchid was first discovered near Somosomo, Taveuni in 1860 by Berthold C. Seemann who was the then botanist of the British Government Mission, sent here to consider the proffered cession of Fiji. The orchid is terrestrial and is found in a dense and moist forest on mossy crest thickets at elevations between 200m to 1300m. The plant can grow to 60cm tall and its leaves can be as long as 90cm. The distinctive feature of the orchid is its showy many-flowered inflorescences that are bright yellow, golden yellow, or yellowish orange. The orchid has been noted to flower from May to November.
Dendrobium BiflorumDendrobium Biflorum – In Fiji, it is found only in Viti Levu and Ovalau growing in areas of strong light from sea level to 900 meters. The plants, growing as epiphytes on trees, build up large clumps of thin canes which can be 1.5 meters long. The flowers, usually in pairs, are about 3cm across with thin and spidery, pale creamy/yellow petals and sepals. They only last one day.
Dendrobium Macropus.Dendrobium Macropus – This orchid is found only on Viti Levu in Fiji. The orchid grows as epiphytes on forest trees from the areas between sea level to 900 meters. The inflorescence starts near the center of the leaves. There is a spike of five or ten small scented flowers which are about 1 to 1.5cm across and are coloured pale to dark yellow with spots of maroon on the backs.
Spathoglottis Pacifica.Spathoglottis Pacifica – This is a common orchid that is most often seen growing along roadsides in the wetter areas of Fiji from sea level to 1000 meters. It is also found in open forests in wet areas as well as on the islands of Lau, Kadavu, and the Yasawas. The inflorescence starts from the base of the plants and can be up to 1.5 meters tall with ten or more flowers 1.5cm long and 0.75cm wide. The flower’s colours range from deep pink to mauve to (almost) white with a yellow mark on the lip.

Mangroves of Fiji


Mangroves of Fiji
Mangroves of Fiji | Image: Supplied

Mangroves are the rainforests by the Sea and are equally threatened. They are vital habitats that protect the coasts against tsunamis, hurricanes, and Sea level change, and directly benefit the adjacent reefs by exporting life-building carbon and, above all, being the nursery areas of countless marine organisms from crustaceans all the way to sharks. They are also largely overlooked as excellent carbon sinks that sequester considerable amounts of carbon compared to tropical and temperate forests.

Table: Mangroves of Fiji


Mangroves of Fiji
Red Mangroves.Red Mangroves (“Tiri”) – grow at the water’s edge, with “prop” roots that stabilize trees in soft mud and wave zones. The sap is red in colour. In Fiji, there are two species of trees that live in this manner, and one sterile hybrid when both species are present – Spotted Mangrove, Samoan Mangrove, and Hybrid Mangrove.
blackmangroves large leafedBlack Mangroves (“Dogo”) – are usually found behind Red Mangroves, in muddy areas that flood at high tide. They may have “prop”, or “elbow” roots that stick up out of the mud, sometimes both. In Fiji there is only one species of Black Mangrove – the Large-Leafed Mangrove. The fruits and seeds are black and used in dyes – Large-leafed Mangrove
Cannonball MangroveWhite Mangroves – White Mangroves are often not recognized by the layman as part of the mangrove community. They are very salt-tolerant trees that grow on dry land immediately behind the wet mangrove areas, and can survive occasional salt-water inundation, and salty soil. Salt is sent out through the leaves, giving the underside of the leaves a white colour. In Fiji there are several species of trees which live in this environment – Teruntum Merah Mangrove, Looking Glass Mangrove, Blind your Eye Mangrove and the Cannonball Mangrove

Table: Trees of Fiji


Yaka dacrydium nausorienseYaka Dacrydium nidulum – Yaka, one of Fiji’s renowned primitive conifers, is a member of the family Podocarpaceae. There are two species of Dacrydium in Fiji, both with the Fijian name Yaka, and both are very valuable timber trees. The endemic Yaka described here can grow up to 12-24 m in height. The fruits are purplish or brownish and become black at full maturity.
PomegranatePomegranate | Punica Granatum – The plant, which may attain 5 or 7 meters (16 or 23 feet) in height, has elliptic to lance-shaped, bright-green leaves about 7.5 cm (3 inches) long.
Yasi Santalum yasiYasi-Santalum-yasi – The plant belongs to the Santalaceae family better known as the Sandalwood family. Yasi is native to Fiji. The plant is a tree that can grow to as high as 12m with trunks reaching 30cm in diameter. The tree is semi-parasitic with the roots attaching to other host trees and providing water and some mineral nutrients. Accordingly, it is well adapted to periodic dry conditions. The flowers are rich pink to purplish red, and the fleshy fruits drupe turns from green to purple or reddish-violet when matured. The fruits and flowers are found throughout the year.

References

  • Asplenium australasicum. (2022, August 18). In Wikipedia. Link
  • BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine (2023). How to grow a pomegranate tree [Photograph]. Gardeners World. Link
  • Cycas seemannii. (2023, February 19). In Wikipedia. Link
  • Cananga Odorata. (2023, February 24). In Wikipedia. Link
  • Dacryopinax spathularia. (2023, January 24). In Wikipedia. Link
  • Daniel Winkler (2023). Phillipsia domingensis [Photograph]. Tumblr. Link
  • Department of the Environment (2000, October 20). Mangroves of Fiji. Mangroves for Fiji. Link
  • Diplazium proliferum. (2019, December 28). In Wikipedia. Link
  • Hibiscus tiliaceus. (2022, October 21). In Wikipedia. Link
  • Hidden Forest (2018). Scleroderma flavidum f. Macrosporum [Photograph]. Hidden Forest. Link
  • Hugues Calixte Eyi Ndong (2011). Lentinus Squarrosulus. [Photograph]. Research Gate. Link
  • Magnoliales. (2023, January 3). In Britannica. Link
  • Renesis (2009). Frangipani flowers [Photograph].
  • Stein, G. (2023). How to grow a pomegranate tree [Photograph]. Balaka Seemannii. Link
  • The Social Plug. (2021, August 8). The Hibiscus – Plants of Fiji [Video]. YouTube. Link
  • Unknown (2019). Nephrolepis Biserrata [Photograph]. Gardenia. Link
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