The Atoll of Funafuti, Ellice group : its zoology, botany, ethnology and general structure based on collections made by Charles Hedley of the Australian Museum, Sydney, N.S.W.
[vegetation of Funafuti Atoll]
I regret that I was unable to form a Botanical Collection in Funafuti. I did indeed attempt to dry plants in blotting paper, but the extreme moisture of the climate caused the specimens to rot even in the press. Zoological study being the principal aim of my visit, and the exhausting work of reef collecting leaving little time or energy, botany was reluctantly sacrificed; specimens of such plants only as related to ethnological inquiry being preserved in a solution of two or three per cent, of formol.
The study of atoll floras was initiated by Henslow's examination* of the plants collected by Darwin on the Keeling Islands, our knowledge of which was expanded by Forbes† and by Guppy.‡ Lists of plants from the Marshall Islands,§ Maldon Island,‖ Gilbert Islands, ¶ Sikaiana Island,** Caroline Island,†† and Fanning Island,‡‡ show a small number of the same species repeated from atoll to atoll over enormous distances across the Pacific Ocean. The identity of the vegetation possessed by tiny islets separated by thousands of miles of deepest ocean is very striking, since paradoxically they present a greater continuity of life range than any continent can show. The inferences deducible from the distribution of atoll plants are so admirably drawn by Dr. H. B. Guppy, and are so entirely in accordance with my own conclusions, that I extract from his article "The Polynesians and their Plant-names, "§§ the following expression of his views:—
* Florula Keelingensis, Ann. Nat. Hist., i,, 1838, p. 337.
† Forbes—A Naturalist's Wanderings in the Eastern Archipelago,1885, p. 42.
‡ Nature, xli., 1890, p. 492. § E. Betche, Berliner Gartenzeitung, 1814.
‖ Hooker in Hemsley, Challenger Reports—'Botany, i., 1885, p. 18.
¶ Woodford—Geogr. Journ., vi., 1895, p. 346.
** Beck—Ann. K.K. Naturhist. Hofmus., iii., 1888, pp. 251-256.
†† Dixon—Mem. Nat. Acad. Sci., ii., 1884, p. 88.
‡‡ Hemsley—"Challenger" Reports—Botany, iii., 1885, p. 116.
§§ Trans. Vict. Inst., 1896.
* Among Mollusca the Trochomorphæ would seem to have "reached their present home by the path attempted in vain by the Nipa Palm;" and Rhysota sowerbyana, Pfr., to have accompanied the Nipa to the Carolines, and like it to have there "reached the last spot where it could find a station."—C.H.
No account of the botany of the Ellice Group appears to have been published. In his recent works on Polynesian Botany, Drake del Castello neglects to make any reference to this Archipelago. A few plants were gathered by the Rev. S. J. Whitmee during his missionary tours and presented to the Kew Herbarium. From this collection Hemsley in the "Challenger Reports—Botany" incidentally quotes Suriana maritima, Linn., and Rhizophora mucronata, Lamarck, from Funafuti itself, and from the Ellice in general the following:—Ochrosia parviflora, Henslow, Tourne-fortia argentea, Linn. f., Acalypha grandis, Bentham, Pipturus argenteus, Weld, Guettarda speciosa, Linn., Premna taitensis, Schauer, Nephrolepis exaltata, Schott, and Octoblepharum smaragdinum, Mitten.
The vegetable monarch of the atoll world is the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera, Linn.), tall individuals of which, rearing their plumes to a height of over eighty feet, give to the mariner his first landfall. Every available rod of dry land is planted with coconuts, one tiny islet, a mere shingle bank, so swept with spray that lichens are the only other vegetable life, yet grows three poor stunted and battered palms, It is to be emphasised that all coconuts are planted; the idea of a wild palm being as strange in Funafuti as that of a wild peach might be in England. Gill in describing the primeval forest of the uninhabited island of Nassau in 1862, alludes to but a single coconut tree among the indigenous vegetation.* I doubt whether, despite popular opinion to the contrary, a wild coconut palm is to be found throughout the breadth of the Pacific. Certainly it is most rare, again contrary to popular theory, for a drifted coconut thrown upon the beach by winds and waves to produce a tree.† So intimately is this palm now associated with native life that it is difficult to imagine an atoll before its introduction.
* Gill—Jottings from the Pacific, 1885, p. 30.
† From eye-witnesses I have heard of several wild coconut palms on Facing Island, Queensland, and again of one at Emu Park, Queensland. But, if the popular idea were correct, the Queensland beaches should have presented many hundred miles of coconut groves to their earliest explorers, receiving, as I can testify they do, abundance of drifted nuts and fulfilling every requirement of soil and climate. As Jukes says: "The entire absence of these trees from every part of Australia is a most striking fact, since it is I believe the only country in the world so much of which lies within the tropics in which they have never been found."—(Voy. "Fly" i., 1847, p. 132.) I have been told by Queensland Aborigines that they always tore up and ate any sprouting nuts they might find, but even this scarcely accounts for the remarkable absence of the coconut palm from Queensland. Guppy's remarks on the germination of stranded coconuts (Nature, xli., p. 492) will repay perusal, also Dana's in Corals and Coral Islands, 1872, p. 181. Where the original borne of this palm was, has been discussed at length by Seemann in the Flora Vitiensis, and by De Candolle—Origin of Cultivated Plants, 1884, p. 429.
Though romance and poetry have always linked together reef and palm, yet truth to tell, the coconut does not attain its greatest luxuriance upon the low reef islands. To an eye, not to mention an appetite, accustomed to the coconuts of New Guinea, the fruit of Funafuti seems to be dwarfed and stunted, and the palm trunks to be small and slender. A hundred nuts on a stem is a maximum yield for Funafuti, but double that amount is obtained elsewhere. "As big as a Rotumah nut," is a phrase often heard upon Funafuti, the richer soil of that high island producing larger nuts than the atolls; the shells of very large nuts being valued for flasks and toddy vessels.
Native traditions point not only to the fact that the coconut is an introduced plant, but that the date of its introduction into Funafuti is, historically speaking, comparatively modern, possibly a couple of centuries ago. Certain of the tallest and presumably oldest* palms about the principal village are known as "Touassa's trees," having been planted in the reign of that chieftain. Tradition narrates how the priest Erivada despatched double canoes, "fouroua," or ocean-going craft, to Vaitupu to bring thence seed nuts, Vaitupu having previously received the coconut from the Gilberts. On the canoes returning with their cargo, the sprouting nuts were dexteriously split so that the spongy core could be extracted for food, while the germinating plant, uninjured by this treatment, was cultivated. At this period land other than the village site and the taro gardens first acquired a value, and the whole atoll was then parcelled out among the tribe, each man proceeding to plant his portion with coconuts. Two generations ago so valuable were the nuts that to steal them was a crime which these gentle islanders punished by drowning the culprit in the lagoon. Two varieties of coconut are recognised, the sweet nut "uta maunga" and bitter "niu."
* Dr. Gill states that "The coconut palm attains the age of from 180 to 200 years in well sheltered places."—Jottings from the Pacific, 1885, p. 203.
† The stage in ripeness which the nut has reached is ascertained by tapping on it with the knuckles, as in Fiji. See Seemann—Flora Vitiensis, 1865-73, p. 278.
In former years a considerable trade was done in coconut oil locally expressed and casked. The dried kernel or copra now furnishes the sole export of Funafuti, amounting annually to about 8,000 lbs. In return the natives receive through the local trader, tobacco, calico, tools and other requirements. Out of the revenue so obtained, the salary of the native missionary teacher and the taxes due to the Imperial Government are both paid.
Palms devoted to the manufacture of toddy (Fig. 1) are readily distinguished by having step notches cut in their trunks. Every month the palm puts forth a budding spathe. In toddy palms this is not permitted to develope into flower and fruit, but on its first appearance is lashed round with twine, "marled" in seafaring language, from the base to the apex, The peduncle of the spathe is scraped and slightly split to allow it to bend more freely. Then the spathe is bent downwards gradually by tying down the tip for two or three days, the cord being shortened at intervals, till the spathe has acquired the proper inclination. Three or four inches are cut off with a knife from the tip, to which a little spout or gutter of leaf is attached. This spout guides the drip of the sap into an empty coconut shell hung from the spathe. Twice a day a lad ascends the tree, unbinds the tip, shaves a little off it with his knife to make the sap run freer, rebinds it and exchanges the full shell for an empty one. Several spathes in one palm are in operation simultaneously.
* Woodford—loc. cit.
Fig. 1.—Method of collecting sap dropping from wounded spathes (toddy) into suspended coconut-shell flasks.
The green heart of a coconut palm being only to be obtained by sacrificing the tree, was a dainty seldom eaten by the islanders.
The timber of the palm was not as far as my observation went ever employed by the natives. The only insect foes to the palm in Funafuti were the white ants, which committed much damage by eating away the trunk a few feet from the ground. I saw several tall palms snapped by the wind where these pests had weakened the stem. My colleague, Mr. W. J. Rainbow, recognised in this pest Calotermes marginipennis, Latr.
The cultivation of the coconut is confined to the simple operations of placing a sprouting nut where it is to grow, of clearing the shrubs and vines from around it, and of gathering the produce. The work of collecting and husking the nuts devolves solely upon the men. For climbing the palms a stout rope loop, "kafunga," is twisted into a figure of eight, into this each foot is thrust as far as the instep. Placing his hands around the stem the man leaps on to the trunk, resting his manacled feet on either side of it. Raising his hands to a higher grasp he makes another leap, and ascends the tree by bounds of a couple of feet or so. Arrived at the summit he plucks from his belt a short notched stick and attached cord, "kouteki." Applying the stick against the palm stem like a ship's crosstrees against her mast, he winds the rope half round the trunk, over the notch on the stick, back round the tree and over the other notched end. Repeating this twice or thrice the stick is securely hitched to the trunk, and the native standing upon the crosstrees may conveniently do his work. A nut is gathered by seizing the apex with the fingers and twirling it round till the twisted stalk breaks, when the nut is allowed to drop to the ground.
Husking is effected by fixing a stout stake, which presents a sharp spear point, in the ground at an angle of about 45°. The nut held in both hands is driven against the stake so that the point penetrates the husk but not the shell, and with a twist a strip of husk is wrenched off. After two or three repetitions the husk is torn off, except a strip by which it is fastened to another nut. The labourer returns from his work with his plane iron adze caught in a loop of the kafunga, and these with the koutekei slung with his freshly husked nuts from the husking stake, a valued implement and potential weapon, over his shoulder.
Anyone athirst in another man's land was in Funafuti at liberty to pluck his neighbour's coconut, but he was expected to report the circumstance to the owner on his return.
* Gill—Jottings from the Pacific, 1885, p. 205.
† Gill—loc. cit., pp. 15 and 22. On Nukufetau the American Expedition observed a coconut leaflet tied around the neck, probably as a sign of amity and peace. Wilkes—Narr. Amer. Explor. Exped., v., 1845, p. 43.
* Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S.W. (2) x., 1895, p. 615, Pl. lviii., f. 2.
† "The thatch of Atupa's house [in Nanomanga] is merely the leaf of the coconut, which is very pervious to rain; whilst the idol-temples are well covered with the leaf of Pandanus odoratissimus, the finest thatch in the world. We suggested to a chief that the king's dwelling might have a better thatch. He replied, "The king's house is thatched with coconut leaves, not with pandanus, because he is but mortal." The same feeling formerly existed on Mangaia with reference to this celebrated thatch, tree." Gill—Jottings from the Pacific, 1885, p. 23.
‡ Loc. cit. p. 284.
The dried leaves tied in bundles are used at night for torches while fishing.
Fibre for sinnet is obtained by macerating green coconut husk for three or four weeks in fresh or salt water, such is known as "loukafa."
A kind of fish trap like our crab pot was wove in basket work from the roots of the palm.
After the coconut the principal tree, both in numbers and utility, is the Fala, Screw Pine, probably Pandanus odoratissimus, Linn., but the confused literature* of this difficult genus has not allowed a satisfactory identification of this species. The natives recognise and name several varieties of the native Fala, but I do not know whether these are botanical species. On the third islet south of the permanent village I remarked an apparently starved form with scanty foliage and slender limbs. Approaching the atoll from the sea, the pyramidal shape and vivid green of the Fala enables the eye to detect it before any other indigenous plant. It extends over the whole of every islet, and appears to have no especial choice of soil or situation, attaining a height of 25 -30 feet, and a diameter of trunk of 12-14 inches. The facetted fruit, "fui Fala," about the size of a man's head, is orange-red when ripe and then emits a sweet smell, three or four in different stages of maturity being usually carried on one tree. The fruit being broken open the proximal soft portion of the phalanges is chewed. The sweet sugary taste is a favourite with adults and children alike, and meets the approval of the Robber Crab, Birgus latro, but does not commend itself to a European palate. Having chewed the ends into the semblance of a paint brush, the eater throws the phalanges away and never opens them for the edible seeds they contain. There appears to be no private property in Pandanus, anyone may take any ripe fruit he may meet.
* Vide Balfour, Observations on the genus Pandanus, Journ. Linn. Soc. Bot. xvii. p. 54.
A different Pandanus from the wild one is cultivated near the village, it has a sweeter fruit, twice as large as the indigenous species, longer, broader leaves, and stouter stem. The natives call it the Fala kai, edible Screw Pine, and they told me that it had been introduced from the Gilbert Islands. This is probably the species mentioned by the Rev. S. J. Whitmee, who writes of Peru:‡ "The natives appear to value the Pandanus even more than the cocoanut palm. They consume immense quantities of the fruit raw, and the variety which they cultivate in the Gilbert Group (which is much superior to that found in the Ellice Islands, and immeasureably superior to the kind cultivated in Samoa) produces a very palatable fruit. The women prepare a kind of cake by baking the fruit till it becomes soft; they then pound a large number in a large mat, and spread the prepared pulp in cakes two or three feet wide by six or eight long, and one-sixth of an inch thick. The whole is then dried in the sun, and made into a roll like an ancient manuscript. This keeps for a length of time and tastes something like old dates."
* In the New Hebrides the petticoat worn by women and girls is prepared from the exposed roots of the Pandanus by splitting and chewing them. Gill—Jottings from the Pacific, 1885, p. 186.
† Gill—loc. cit, p. 187.
‡ Whitmee—A Missionary Cruise in the South Pacific, Sydney, 1871, p. 36.
Leichhardt writes of Northern Australia: "At the deserted camp of the natives, which I visited yesterday, I saw half a cone of the Pandanus covered up in hot ashes, large vessels (koolimans) filled with water in which roasted seed-vessels were soaking; seed vessels which had been soaked, were roasting on the coals, and large quantities of them broken on stones and deprived of their seeds. This seems to shew that, in preparing the fruit when ripe for use, it is first baked in hot ashes, then soaked in water to obtain the sweet substance contained between its fibres, after which it is put on the coals and roasted to render it brittle, when it is broken to obtain the kernels."†
In Funafuti the children make necklaces out of bits of the brightly coloured nuts. ‡
Of the timber trees the most imposing is the Fetau (Calophyllum inophyllum, Linn.). On the lagoon side of the north-eastern islet and overhanging the water are some handsome examples of this tree forty feet in height and six or seven in diameter, whose roots extend downwards to the hightide mark, and clasp the rocks in the fashion of the Maritime Pines of Europe, or the Spotted Gums of Australia. The rough barked, short, stout trunk branches like an oak abruptly into heavy, thick limbs. The foliage is dense, glossy and dark green; among which is borne a profusion of delicate, sweet smelling, white flowers, greatly valued by the natives, and woven by them into garlands for feasts and festivals. On the main islet were a few small trees, but the species was not abundant there. I did not notice the hard dark timber in use by the natives. Probably it was not workable by the shell adzes used before civilisation.§
* Gill—loc. cit., p. 185.
† Leichhardt—Journal of an Overland Expedition in Australia, "1847, p. 406.
‡ As described by Gill—loc. cit., p. 186.
§ Seemann (Flora Vitiensis, 1865-73, p. 12) says of the oil of this tree in Fiji, "the natives use it for polishing arms and greasing their bodies, when coconut is not at hand. The leaves are torn in small pieces, soaked in water for a night and then used for washing inflamed eyes. Boats and canoes are built of the wood and it is named with the Vesi (Afzelia bijuga) as the best timber produced in Fiji"
‖ "Buka" in Rarotonga—Gill, loc. cit., p. 166.
For posts and the frames of houses the natives had recourse to the hard, heavy, white wood of the Fau (Ochrosia parviflorus, Henslow), a smooth barked, small, round topped tree, twenty-five feet in height and a foot in diameter, which flourished among broken coral debris, independent of sand or soil. In hot weather the dense foliage of large, smooth, glossy leaves offered a refreshing shade. The nuts, which Darwin aptly compared to walnuts in appearance, turn yellow when ripe, and hang from long stalks in clusters of twos and threes. Beneath the tree are thickly scattered on the ground the fallen fruit, looking, when the outer rind decays, as if meshed in netting. No use is made of these nuts by the natives.*
Only one clump of the handsome Barringtonia Butonica, Forst., was seen, it grew a little beyond the north arm of the mangrove swamp. I am not aware if the Rarotongan method† of poisoning fish with Barringtonia was practised by the Ellice Islanders. Of the uses to which this tree is put in Fiji, Seemann writes: "A magnificent seaside tree, from which liku (woman's dress) is made. The large square fruits are used by the natives for floats of fishing nets, and in a favourite game (veitegi vutu). The outer portion of the fruit, which is poisonous, is employed for stupefying fish, for the purpose of catching them."‡
† Gill—loc. cit., p. 140.
The Fo fafini, or Woman's Fibre tree (Hibiscus tiliaceus, Linn.), grows in abundance as a small tree thirty feet in height, bearing numerous large, showy, lemon coloured flowers, with a brown centre. The western end of the mangrove swamp was overgrown by a dense thicket of this tree. I did not notice that its very soft white wood was applied to any purpose by the natives. The bark, as elsewhere in the Pacific, is a favourite material with the local costumières, who soak it in sea water for a couple of weeks, dry it in the sun, and bleach it with lime, or stain it red with Nonou bark, or blacken it with charcoal, bonito blood, or Tonga tan. In the Ellice this use of Fo was restricted to Nukulailai, Funafuti, Nukufetau, and Vaitupu, beyond which it was replaced by Pandanus.
* Near Cooktown, Queensland, the writer saw in a black's camp a quantity of Rhizophora fruit collected for food, and in Western British New Guinea he learnt that it was resorted to in time of famine. In Proc. Roy. Soc. Qd., v., 1888, p. 11, it is recorded as eaten by the Solomon Islanders. For an allusion to its use as an esculent in Torres Straits, see Haddon—Folklore, i., 1890, p. 190.
† Review, in Geogr. Journ., 1896, p. 297.
‡ Seemann—loc. cit., p. 91.
§ Mariner—Tonga, ii., 1817, p. 287.
"It is the Talwalphin of some of our Aborigines, who use the fibre of the bark for fishing lines and nets."† "By the Central Queensland natives the roots and tops are used as food."‡ In Hawaii, Hillebrand says: "The light wood serves for outriggers of canoes, the bark furnishes a tough and pliable bast for ropes, and a decoction of the flowers is a useful emollient in bronchial and intestinal catarrhs.§
Near the village were several bushes of Fo tangata (Broussonetia papyracca, Vent.), distinguished from the other Fo ‖ (Hibiscus) as the Man's Fibre tree. These grew as shrubs eight feet high, with slender withy branches and coarsely veined soft leaves; apparently they were limited to two or three acres. No care was bestowed on them, and while on the island I considered the plants to be quite wild. Numerous references to this species, as widely cultivated throughout Polynesia, make me now suspect that this tract had originally been planted. Of Fiji Seemann writes: "The cultivation of the plant does not seem to extend further westwards towards the New Hebrides, New Caledonia, and the Loyalty Groups; nor does it seem to be in vogue amongst the islands of the Indian Archipelago and in India….
* Seemann—loc. cit., p. 18.
† Maiden—Useful Native Plants, 1889, p. 624.
‡ Thozet—quoted id.
§ Hillebrand—Flora of the Hawaiian Islands, 1888, p. 49.
‖ "Botanical classification has often no place in vernacular nomenclature, and through some resemblance in habit or in utility plants are often placed together that to a botanist lie far apart." Guppy—Trans. Vict. Inst., 1896.
¶ Seemann—loc. cit., p. 246.
An indigenous Fig is known as Ferra. It resembles the illustration, PL lxiv., of Ficus aspera in the Flora Vitiensis, producing small green fruit the size of marbles, and rarely attaining an altitude of twenty feet. The root, "djakka ferra," formerly yielded excellent fibre for cordage, equal to that obtained from Broussonetia, but is no longer employed. It was manufactured from the bark of the root by peeling, chewing, and drying it in the sun. A dish from the fruit of the Ferra was prepared by pounding it up with coconut milk. In Fiji, "when the plantations of Broussonetia papyrifera fail to produce a sufficient quantity of raw material for making native cloth, recourse is had to the Baka, Ficus obliqua, Forster."*
Several different species of trees which agree in having white, scented, night flowering blossoms, and somewhat similar foliage, are apt at first acquaintance to be confounded with each other. Indeed, all the flowers seen on the island, with the exception of Malvaceous plants, the Dioclea, and a minute small flowered convolvulus, were white or green.
On landing, the first plant encountered is almost sure to be the Ngashu (Scævola kænigii). This is a thickly growing shrub about eight feet high, with bare stems and terminal tufts of large fleshy leaves, among which are borne the inconspicuous white flowers and white berries. The wood is very soft, hollow, with a white central pith like elder. These plants love to grow at the very margin of the sea. The pith is said to have been used for caulking the seams of canoes.
* Seemann—loc. cit., p. 251.
Besides the Fetau already described, there are two other blossoms especially valued for their scent by the natives, the Boua and the Jiali. In "the old times" flowers were worn lavishly, and are interwoven with many native tales and customs. A lover's wishes were granted by the lady of his choice, who crowned him with a scented garland, but a refusal was conveyed by handing to the less fortunate swain an unscented wreath. The passion for scent among the Polynesians was illustrated by the Hawaiian chiefs, who reserved the choicest scent trees for themselves by tabuing them to the common people.
The Boua (Guettarda speciosa, Linn.), grows abundantly as a small tree twenty feet high, with large, ovate, opposite, rough leaves, bearing in cymes a profusion of richly perfumed white flowers, with long slender corolla tubes. The leaves are used for poultices, and the flowers are employed both for scenting the anointing coconut oil and are worn as wreaths.†
* Cooper—Coral Lands of the Pacific, ii., 1880, p. 76. "On Palmerston Island Damana timber is very plentiful, and so is a wood called Nangiia, generally found in the Pacific on desert shores, or on the brink of lagoons where its roots are bathed by the tide. Its characteristics are great weight, intense hardness, and closeness of grain. Mr. Sterndale considers that it would be very valuable as a substitute for boxwood for engravers. The logs were about 18 in in diameter."
† The Vitians make necklaces (taube or salusalu) of the corollas of this and other white odoriferous Monopetalæ." Seemann—loc. cit., p. 131.
‡ Gill—The South Pacific and New Guinea, Sydney, 1892, p. 22.
§ Gill—Proc. Austr. Assoc. Adv. Sci. for 1892 (1893), p. 613.
Near the town were a few Crinum plants, whose flowers were woven by the girls into wreaths, They seemed to me to have been planted there, but the natives assured me that the species was indigenous, which I am more inclined to believe after reading that Woodford remarked it in the Gilberts, ‡
Thespesia populnea, Soland., known both to the Ellice Islanders and Tahitians by the name of Miro, § grew on the embankments between the cultivated swamps, I saw none undoubtedly wild. It is chiefly valued for producing the long, straight poles used in bonito fly fishing. The handsome dark wood I saw carved into a native drum. ‖
The Tausoun (Toumefortia argentea, Linn.) grows upon sandy soil and flourishes upon the leeward islands, where it gives its name to one locality. It appears as a low, round-topped tree with rough bark, dense foliage, and large dense cymes of small purple flowers. The large, obovate silky leaves attract a visitor's attention. No use is made of the soft wood, but the leaves are applied as a styptic to incised wounds; they are also collected to enrich the soil of the Taro plantations.
A bush, Valla valla (Premna taitensis, Schauer), grows abundantly on sandy ground, the large, thin, light green leaves of which emit an agreeable scent when crushed in the hand. These are used by the natives to scent coconut oil. When matches were unknown, the usual material for raising fire was Valla valla wood, a pencil being ploughed in a groove till friction produced ignition. At Nukulailai cauterisation was practised by applying a piece of Valla valla bark glowing from the fire to the seat of the pain.¶ I I was told on this island that the root of this shrub was sometimes used as a dye. "The natives of Fiji, who call the tree 'Yaro,' employ the wood for house building."**
* Mariner—Tonga, i., 1817, p. 308.
† Mariner—loc. cit., p. 409.
‡ Woodford—loc. cit., p. 346.
§ Guppy—Trans. Vict, Inst., 1896.
‖ "The natives in Fiji do not seem to make any use of the fibre of the Mulomulo (T. p.) so frequently used in other countries for cordage, but bestow great praise on the tree on account of the almost indestructible nature of the wood whilst under water. In Tahiti the tree was formerly regarded as sacred and planted on the 'Marae.'" Seemann—loc. cit., p. 19.
¶ Mariner tells us that the Tongans applied ignited tappa to cases of hard indolent tumours.—Loc. cit., p. 261.
** Seemann—loc. cit., p. 187.
The favourite dye wood of Funafuti is the Nonou* (Morinda citrifolia, Linn.), a shrub growing plentifully wherever soil and shelter could be found. A height of ten or twelve feet is reached by this as a weak, straggling shrub, whose leaves are opposite, ovate-acuminate, large and glossy. The peculiar green fruit, an inch or two in length, somewhat resembles a green strawberry or a small, immature pine cone. The terminal twigs are four square. By the natives the fruit is eaten† medicinally, but they chiefly value the plant as a dye producer. A bright crimson-vermilion stain results from grating the bark of the root with a piece of rough coral and applying lime thereto. The native kilt or titi is thus coloured,‡ and the red strands in mat patterns similarly produced. Where the natives have more communication with Europeans the Nonou dye is discarded for aniline dyes. At Tonga, Mariner observed the Pandanus leaf, "first soaked for six or eight hours in lime water, and afterwards in an infusion of the root of the nono, where it remains for about a week; it is afterwards exposed to the sun, and becomes of a bright red; the root of the nono is of a dark bright yellow, which, upon the action of lime water becomes red."§
Once only was a Cordyline, probably G. terminalis, seen; upon the north-eastern islet I saw a few plants of this genus about three or four feet high, without flower or fruit. A native guide to whom it was pointed out called it Ti, a name by which it is known from Hawaii to New Zealand; he added that the root was "allee same sugar." Two species of Cordyline are cultivated in Fiji, where their roots are eaten by the natives. ‖
* The island in the Tokolau Group, Nukunonou, seems to have taken its name from this plant.
"The fruit though rather insipid is eaten either raw or after undergoing some kind of cooking in Fiji." Seemann—loc. cit., p. 129.
"The natives of the Shortland Islands informed me that the neighbouring people of Rubiana were accustomed to eat the fruits of the common littoral tree Morinda citrifolia (urati), but that they themselves did not eat it." Guppy—Solomon Islands, 1887, p. 89.
‡ It was doubtless with this not with "red ochre" that the dress presented to Capt. Moresby (New Guinea, p. 79) on Niutao was coloured.
§ Mariner—loc. cib., p. 209.
‖ Seemann—loc, cit., p. 311.
A common herb everywhere was the Tulla tulla (Triumfetta procumbens, Forst,), whose prostrate stems trailed for several feet over the ground. In sunshine only did the golden yellow petals unfold, but the burr-like seeds attracted attention in all weathers. This was the most valued medicinal plant for the native doctors, who made of its foliage both decoctions and poultices. The native pharmacopeia included several other plants, as the Talla talla gemoa (Psilotum triquetrum, Linn.); wounds from the spine of the Monacanihus fishes were treated with a poultice of this, and another mode of treatment was to pile the plant on a fire and hold the wounded limb in the smoke then produced. For ear ache a remedy was sought in the cruciferous herb Lou (Cardamine sarmentosa, Forst.), the leaves of which being chewed the juice is strained in a cloth and poured into the ear. "In New Caledonia this species is eaten instead of Cress and as an antiscorbutic. ‡ A cure for boils is a poultice of the leaves of the Lakoumonong, kindly identified for me by Mr. R. T. Baker, as Wedelia strigulosa, D.C., a tall composite herb with yellow flowers, which grew among the Brousonnetia bushes and reached a height of about six feet. It was further used as a scent plant. The leaves are chopped fine, wrapped in a cloth and strained by twisting, cloth and leaves are then soaked in coconut oil to impart to it a perfume.
Another scent was given to the anointing oil by crushing in it the fronds of Meili (Polypodium, sp.), a common fern there. Several other species of ferns flourished in shady places in the centre of the island, the most conspicuous of which were the large tufts of Asplenium nidus, Linn.
* In J. P. Thomson—British New Guinea, 1892, p. 283.
† Guppy—loc. cit., p. 90.
‡ Seemann—loc. cit., p. 5.
An Abutilon grew as a small shrub with handsome orange-brown blossoms in dry sunny places. On the north-eastern islet I once noticed an Ipomcea trailing over the ground. It resembled in habit but differed in leaf from I. biloba, Forsk.; neither flower nor fruit was seen. No parasites or epiphytes were noticed with the exception of a Cuscuta, which entangled low bushes in its skeins of thread. The introduced couch grass, Cynodon dactylon, had obtained a footing around the village. Another grass grew thickly in small patches of swampy flats clear of trees. Two species of mosses occurred, one probably Octoblepharum smaragdinum,* Mitten, wrapped around the butts of the palms as a soft green mantle a handsbreadth deep.
The fallen trunks of trees were encrusted by a fungus, possibly a species of Polyporus.
A specimen of Azolla rubra, floating in the men's bathing pool, was the only instance of aquatic vegetation that came under my notice.
A log came ashore upon the windward reef, which an experienced bushman of our party having split and chewed, determined by its grain and taste to be New Zealand kauri, Dammara australis, Lamb. "An occasional log drifts to the shores, and at some of the more isolated atolls, where the natives are ignorant of any land but the spot they inhabit, they are deemed direct gifts from a propitiated deity. These drift logs were noticed by Kotzebue at the Marshall Islands, and he remarked also that they often brought stones in their roots. Similar facts have been observed at the Gilbert Group, and also at Enderby's Island, and many other coral islands in the Pacific"†
* Mitten—Challenger Reports, Bot., ii., p. 254
† Dana—loc. cit., p. 287.