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A Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas

Plants of Use for Food, Medicine, &c. in Otaheite

page 37

Plants of Use for Food, Medicine, &c. in Otaheite.

  • Native Name.
  • Latin Name
  • Teatea-maowa,
  • Jasminum-didymum,

Grows upon the hills; has a very sweet-smelling white flower, which the natives admire much.

  • E ava.
  • Piper-inebrians.

The expressed juice of this plant they drink to intoxicate themselves.

  • E to.
  • Saccbarum-dulcis.

Of this cane they make no sugar, but content themselves with sucking the juice out of it.

  • E mohoo.
  • Cyperus-alatus.

The stalks of this plant, stripped of their pulp, which they perform with a sharp shell, make a sort of thread used for several common purposes.

  • Taihinnoo.
  • Tournefortia-fericea:
  • E tow.
  • Cordia-sebestena.

The leaves of these two plants are ingredients in their red dye, or mattee, for their cloth

  • E marra.
  • Nauclea-orientalis.

Of the timber of this tree they build their large canoes.

  • E teea-ree.
  • Gardenia-florida.

This was originally brought from some other island to Otaheite, and there planted on account of most flagrant flower; which they crop as soon as grown and stick, in their ears, calling it E teea-ree, that is, the flower, by way of eminence.

  • Taowdeehaow.
  • Convolvulus-alatus.

The stalks of this plant they give young children to suck.

page 38
  • E oomarra,
  • Convolvulus-chrysorizus,

Planted and cultivated by the natives, on account of its root, which is the sweet potatoe of the South-sea Islands.

  • Pohooe.
  • Convolvulus-Brasiliensis:

Of this plant they make a sort of seine, which they use in such ground where they cannot use another.

  • E maireeo.
  • Galaxa-oppositi-folia.

The leaf of this plant is one of the ingredients in their manoe.

  • E deva or E reva.
  • Galaxa-sparsa.

This plant has a pretty large white flower like that of an oleander. Of the wood of this tree they make their pahaoos, or drums.

  • E booa or E pooa.
  • Solanum-latifolium.

The leaves of this plant they use in making their red dye or mattee.

  • Pouraheitee.
  • Solanum-viride.

The leaves of this plant, baked, are eaten as greens.

  • E nono.
  • Morinda-citri-folia.

The root of this tree they use to dye their garments yellow, and eat the fruit of it

  • E tee.
  • Draccana-terminais.

Of this plant there are five different sorts, yielding a large root, which is eaten, and counted very good food, by the islanders of the South-seas.

  • Tootaoopa.
  • Loranthus-stelis.

This plant is remarkable for nothing except its name, which signifies the Oopa, or pigeons dung; that bird feeds on the berries, and voids the stones on the trunk of trees, where it-grows.

  • E peea.
  • Chaitea-tacca.

The root of this plant, properly prepared, makes an excellent strong jelly, like to blanc-mange, of the nature of salop, for which it is very justly admired by these islanders.

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  • Tawhannoo.
  • Guettarda-speciosa.

The timber of this tree, which grows pretty large at Toopbai, and other low islands near Otaheite, serves to make stools, chests, paste-troughs, and various other utensils; they also build canoes of it.

  • E àwaow.
  • Dapbne-capitata

This plant is used to poison fish, in order to catch them; and, for this purpose, they beat or mash it together and throw it into the rivers and sea within the reefs.

  • E owhe.
  • Arundo-bambos.

This is the common bamboe, of which these islanders make great use; the large joints they keep to hold water and oil; of the small they make arrows, slutes, cases to hold small things; and, when cut into slips, they serve them for knives, and cut tolerably well.

  • E motoo.
  • Melastoma-malabatbrica.

This plant is one of those which they hang upon their whatta-note-toobapaow, or burial-stand, to be eaten by the soul of the deceased.

  • E hee, or E ratta.
  • Aniotum-fagiferum.

This is a tall and stately tree which bears a round flat fruit, covered with a thick tough coat, and, when roasted and stripped of its rind, eats as well as a chesnut.

  • E avee.
  • Spondias-dulcis

This is a large stately tree, and often grows to the height of forty and fifty feet: the fruit, which, I believe, is peculiar to these isles, is of an oval shape, yellow when ripe, and grows in bunches of three or four, and is about the size of a middling apple, with a large stringy core: it is a very wholsome and palatable fruit, improving on the taste, which is nearest that of a mangoe; it is strongly impregnated with turpentine, and makes excellent pies when green. The wood serves for building canoes, and for several other purposes.

  • Pouraoo, and epooataroorroo.
  • Cratava-frondosa.

The fruit of this shrub they lay upon their corpses, and hang it upon their burial

whattas, page 40What as, it having an agreeable bitter smell: it is one of those which are sacred to their god Tané, and, for that reason, is generally planted in, or by the small Morais, called Morai Roma Tané, which are a sort of altar near the houses, upon which they offer victuals.

  • E peereepeeree.
  • Euphorbia-develata.

This plant is full of a milky juice, with which they dye their garments of an indifferent brown colour.

  • E aowiree.
  • Terminala-glabrata.

This tree, which grows to a large size, is often planted in their Morais, and near their houses, for the sake of its agreeable shade; the wood serves to build canoes, make chests, stools and drums: the kernel of the nut which is in the fruit, though small, has a very pleasant taste. [See pl. X.]

  • E ratta, or e pooratta.
  • Metrosideros-spectabilis.

This tree, or shrub, grows upon the Tooaroa, or Lower-hills, and is much resorted to by the venee, or small blue parrot, which feeds upon the flowers, and is often caught here, by means of a glewy juice which issues out from the tops of the stalks, when broke by their feeding upon them, and catches them like birdlime:: the flowers are full of beautiful scarlet stamina; the natives stick them in their ears by way of ornament; and the leaves are put in their monoe, when they can get nothing sweeter.

  • E arrarooá.
  • Psidium-myrtifolium.

The only use they make of this tree, which has a flower like a myrtle, is to make their totos or clubs, and ewha's, or a sort of lances, being very tough: they call it an eraow paree, or the cunning tree.

  • E heiya.
  • Eugenia-mallaccensis.

This tree grows upon the lower-hills, having great clusters of crimson flowers, full of stamina of the same colour, much like an almond-blossom, but more brilliant: the fruit, when ripe, is red, and as big as one's fist; sweet, very agreeable to the palate, and full of feeds: it is very well known in the East-India islands, where it is esteemed delicious fruit.

page 41
  • Tamanno.
  • Calophyllum-inophyllum.

This is a most beautiful verdant tree, that grows to a large size, bearing spikes of white flowers: with the juice of the fruit and leaves they dye their garments a pale yellow, which, at the same time, gives them a rich perfume. The wood is greatly valued by them on account of its beauty and duration. They build canoes, make stools, and other utensils of it: it is most likely planted in the Morais, being sacred to their god Tané.

  • E poo-aiho.
  • Saccharum-fatuum.

With bundles of this grass, lit up, they allure the fish to the edges of the reefs, carrying them in their hands at night.

  • E atoorree.
  • Portulacca-lutea.

This sort of purslain grows very common in the low islands, where the inhabitants bake and eat it, and account it very good food.

  • E hootoo.
  • Betonica-splendida.

This beautiful tree grows to a considerable height, and bears a very large and specious white flower, full of long purple stamina, with which they sometimes deck their heads, and sometimes stick them in their ears: the fruit, powdered, they throw into the water to kill fish; and of the wood they build small canoes.

  • E pooamattapeepee.
  • Besleria-laurifolia.

The flower of this tree is much admired on account of its sweet scent, for which reason they stick them in their ears and hair, and put them among their garments, and into their monoe. The wood is very tough and lasting, and of it they make drums, and thwarts across their canoes.

  • E neearohettee.
  • Stachys-dentata, or ruellia-fragrans.

The juice of this plant, mixed with several others, they use as a plaistcr to cure any sort of wounds.

  • E noonanoona.
  • Boerbavia-procumbens.

The stalks of this plant are eaten when they have no better food.

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  • E ava-váidái.
  • Piper-latisolium.

The juice of this plant has not the intoxicating quality of the other, so that they prudently make an offering of it to their Eatooas, on whose altars they hang bunches of it.

  • E pooraow.
  • Hibiscus-cuspidatus.

The bark of this tree yields an excellent stuff for making all sorts of twine, cord, and ropes. Of the wood they make their bows, beams and pillars of their houses, small canoes, stools, and various other utensils. Of the bark of the plant, when young, they weave a sort of matting, which is very neat, and is called by the fame name as the tree. The wood that remains after the bark is taken off, being very light, serves, instead of cork, to float their seins, and for handles to their fisgigs; and to rub together to get fire.

  • E pooraow-toro-ceree.
  • Hibiscus-tricuspis.

This plant is pretty much like the last, and is used for the same purposes, but is inserior in quality.

  • E aiowte.
  • Hibiscus-rosa-sinensis.

This tree is admired on account of its beautiful scarlet flower, of which the young people make garlands for their hair, stick them in their ears, and rub their lances with them to make them look red.

  • E wawei.
  • Gossipium-religiosum.

This is a species of cotton of which they have not yet found out the use.

  • Emeeno.
  • Thespefia-populnea.

This beautiful tree is planted in all Morais, being held sacred to Tané: they also make use of it as an emblem of peace; and always bring it in their hands when they meet with strange people. It yields a middling sort of timber, and is made use of for several purposes.

  • E peereeperee.
  • Urena-lobata.

The seeds of this plant are of the nature of a burr, from whence its name, to glue or stick to any thing. The boys play the same tricks with it as the children in Europe with the burr. They also make maro's, or a sort of mat of the bark.

page 43
  • Berdeebeedeeo.
  • Abrus-pricatorius.

The seed of this plant it the well-known Indian pea with a black spot: of these they form ear-rings, and also stick them on a fillet which they wear on their head.

  • E atai, erythoina.
  • Corallodendron.

This is a large tree, and remarkable for its bright scarlet flower, making a most beautiful show. The venee feeds upon its flowers, and is caught with the clammy juice that issues out of it; the women make garlands of them, and put them round their heads.

  • E owhaee.
  • Æschynomene-speciosa.

This shrub grows wild, in great abundance, on the island of Toopbai; and is planted on the other islands to shade their houses; and the flower of it, which is very beautiful, they often stick in their ears.

  • E hora.
  • Galega-piscatoria.

With this plant, beaten small, they poison or stupify fish, throwing it into the water, by which means they are caught.

  • E peepee.
  • Phaseolus-amœnus.

The stalks of this plant make a very good thread for weaving nets and seins. Of the flowers, which are very pretty, they make garlands for their heads.

  • E vaeenoo.
  • Cotula-bicolor.
  • E tooho.
  • Epipactis-purpurea.

Both these plants, bruised, are ingredients in their Erapaow-mai, or plaister to cure sores.

  • Taro.
  • Arum-esculentum.

The roots of this plant, of which there are several varieties, are as good as Ignames, and are reckoned very wholesome common food in the South-sea islands. The leaves, when baked, taste as well as greens.

  • E ape.
  • Arum-costatum.

The root of this plant is as good as the last, but considerably larger: the leaves, which are very smooth and extremely large, are used to wrap up, or lay any sort of victuals upon.

page 44
  • E toa-casuarina.
  • Equisetisolia.

This is one of the best woods they have; it is very hard and heavy, and coloured like mahogany. They make their clubs, lances, cloth-beaters, and several other knick-nacks and utensils of it.

  • Tooneenna.
  • Hernandia-ovigera.

Of the wood of this tree they make a sort of very small canoes, and several other necessary utensils.

  • E hooe-rorro.
  • Cucurbita-pruriens.

The fruit of this tree is about the size of a small orange, very hard, and quite round, serving them, instead of bottles, to put their monoe or oil in.

  • Moemoe.
  • Phyllanthus-anceps.

The only thing remarkable about this plant is the leaves, which shut up at night, from whence its name, which signifies sleepy.

  • E aowte.
  • Morus-papyriferus.

This is the shrub from which they make their finest and most beautiful cloth; and is probably the same with that of which they make paper in China. They never let it grow old, but cut it down when it is about a man's height, stripping the bark off, and laying it to soak in water. Of this they make their cloth either thick or thin as they please. They plant it in beds, and take great pains in the cultivation of it.

  • E roa.
  • Urtisa-argentea, or Urtica-candicans.

Of the stalks of this nettle, beaten out, they make their best lines for their fish-hooks, which has the quality of not rotting with salt-water; they also make belts, or girdles of it, but very seldom garments; their best seins are also made of it.

  • E tootooe.
  • Telopœa-perspicua.

Of the bark of this tree, soaked in water, they make that gummy substance which they put upon their dark-coloured cloth to make it glossy, and keep out the rain. The fruit of this tree is a sort of nut, which yields a very fat kernel, of which they make their black dye, used in Tataowing, by burning them and receiving the smoke. Strung upon a reed or stick they serve instead of candles, and give a very good light.

page 45
  • E ooroo.
  • Sitodium-altile.

This tree, which yields the bread-fruit so often mentioned by the voyagers to the South-seas, may justly be stiled the Staff-of-life to these islanders; for from it they draw most of their support. This tree grows to between thirty and forty feet high, has large palmated leaves, of a deep grass-green on the upper-side, but paler on the under; and bears male and female flowers, which come out single at the bottom or joint of each leaf. The male flower fades and drops off; the female, or cluster of females, swell and yield the fruit, which often weighs three or four pounds, and is as big as a person's head when full grown. It is of a green colour; the rind is divided into a number of polygonical sections; the general shape a little longer than round, and white on the inside, with a pretty large core. The fruit, as well as the whole plant, is full of a white clammy juice, which issues plentifully from any part that is cut: it delights in a rich soil, and seldom grows, if ever, on the low islands: it is a very handsome tree to look at, of a beautiful verdure, and well cloathed with leaves, bearing a vast quantity of fruit, which appears to hang in bunches, and, by its great weight, bends down the branches: it bears fruit a great part of the year, and there are several sorts of it, some smaller and others larger, which are ready to pluck at different seasons. They generally pluck it before it is ripe, using a long stick with a fork at the end of it for this purpose; and, before they roast it, scrape all the rind off with a shell; and then, when large, cut it in quarters; and, having prepared one of their ovens in the ground, with hot stones in it, they lay the fruit upon these, having previously put a layer of the leaves between, and then another layer over them, and, above that, more hot stones, covering up the whole close with earth, and, in two or three hours time, it is done; it then appears very inviting, more so than the finest loaf I ever saw; the inside is very white, and the outside a pale brown; it tastes very farinaceous, and is, perhaps, the most agreeable and best succedaneum for bread ever yet known, and, in many respects, exceeds it. When thus baked, it only keeps three or four days, another contrivance being used for keeping it; they take the baked fruit, cut out all the cores, and, with a stone-mallet, mash it to a pulp in a wooden; trough, or tray. This pulp they put in a hole that is dug in the ground and lined with leaves; this is close covered up, and left a proper time till it ferments and becomes four, at which time they take it up, and make it into little loaves, which they wrap up in the leaves, and, in this state, it is baked, and called by them mahe, page 46and will keep several months, being eaten when bread-fruit is out of season, and carried to sea with them; and of it they form several sorts of paste, such as pepe, popoee, &c. which are used by them at their meals. The leaves of this tree are very useful to wrap fish and other eatables in, when put into the oven to be baked. Of the wood they build canoes, and make several other sorts of utensils; and, of the bark of young plants of it, which are raised on purpose, they make very good cloth, which is but little inferior to that made of Eaowte, only somewhat more harsh and harder.

  • E awharra.
  • Pandanus-tectorius.

This tree generally grows on the sandy hillocks by the sea-side, and is found in great plenty on all the low islands; the leaves are long, like those of sedge, sawed on the edge; the flowers are male and female, growing upon different trees; those of the male-flower smell very sweet; and, of the bractea of them, which are white, they make a sort of garlands to put round their heads; the fruit is orange colour, and as big as one's head, consisting of a congeries of small cones, like those of the Anana, or Pine-apple, which they much resemble: the bottom of these cones, sucked when full ripe, yield a flat insipid sweetness; and are eaten by the children; but the chief use of this tree is in the leaves, which, when plucked and dried, make excellent thatching for their houses, and various sorts of mats and baskets. This is the Palmetto of the eastern voyagers.

  • E mattee.
  • Ficus-tinctoria.

The figs of this tree are one of the chief ingredients in their red-dye for their garments: when they use them they nip or bite off the stalk close to the fruit, at which time a small drop of milky juice issues out; this they either shake upon the tow-leaves, used in this dye, or else into a cocoa-nut shell, with a little water, or cocoanut milk; and then dip the leaves into it, which they roll up in a small bundle, and work or squeeze them between the palm and their fingers, till the red colour is produced by the mixture of the two juices; but, what is very odd, these leaves being beaten in a mortar, and the juice taken from them and mixed with the fig-milk, will not produce the same colour. Of the bark of this tree very good twine is made, which is of particular use for making of seins, and other nets.

page 47
  • E aowa.
  • Ficus-prolixa.

This tree is remarkable on account of its trunk, which grows to an enormous size, by the branches hanging down, and taking root again, which makes a very grotesque figure. Of the bark of young plants, raised on purpose, they make a sort of cloth, naturally of a russet-hue, which they call Ora, being worn in the mornings, and much valued by them, especially that which is beaten very fine and thin.

  • E toee.
  • Zezyphoides-argentea.

The wood of this tree they make use of for various purposes, such as sterns of canoes, heightening boards for ditto, and beams to beat their cloth upon.

  • E apeeree.
  • Dodonæa-viscosa.

The wood of this tree, which is very tough, serves to make a particular sort of weapon, which they carry in their hand when they dive after sharks, and other large fish.

  • E tive.
  • Dracontium polyphyllum.

The root of this is used to make a jelly like the Peea, but is not near so good.

  • Meiya.
  • Musa-paradisaica.

This is the well-known tropical fruit called Plantains, and Bananas, of which there is a great variety in there islands: they reckon more than twenty sorts which differ in shape and taste; some of these are for eating raw, and others best boiled, and will serve instead of bread: they plant them in a rich soil, and take great pains in their cultivation.

  • Faihe.
  • Musa-bihai.

This is another sort of Plantains, which generally grow wild in the mountains and sometimes are planted by them; they are far inferior to the last, have a considerable astringency, and eat best boiled or roasted. There are four different sorts, and the leaves of this and the last, serve to put victuals upon; and the rind of the trunk to make a sort of baskets called Papa-meiya.

  • E aree.
  • Coccus-nucifer.

This palm, the fruit of which is so well known in all places within the tropics seems to be a native of these islands, being, found every where in the greatest plenty, page 48and in the greatest perfection, especially on the two low islands, called by them Motoos: there are many of them uninhabited, and are resorted to for the sake of the cocoa-nuts, which grow to a very great size on there islands; they love a sandy soil, and thrive much near the sea-side on the rising of the hills: they are smaller, and later in growth; they begin to bear when they are about ten feet high, and yield fruit several times in the year, and continue growing till they are so very tall, that they, by far, overtop all the rest of the trees: the leaves grow all at the top, from which the fruit hangs in several clusters of twenty or thirty, so enormously heavy, it is amazing how the slender stem of this tree can support them: when they have a mind to gather any for present use, they send up a boy who ties his feet together with a string, and vaults up to the top with great ease; when there, he gets them off the stalk by screwing them round, and then flings them down, taking care to give them a twirl first, otherwise they would fall to the ground with such force, from such a height, as would split them, and lose all the liquor. When they have a mind to gather the whole bunch, they cut it off, and lower it down with a rope; the way of opening them for present use is with their teeth, with which they pull off the outer rind, and then break the shell with a stone; but when they have many to peel, they do it by driving them upon a pointed stick, which is fixed in the ground for that purpose. Some sorts of these nuts will not keep at all; and other sorts, when pulled ripe, and properly dried and cured, will keep good a whole year: upon these racemi, or bunches, are ripe fruit, those that are half ripe, and others just set at the same time. The uses of this tree are many to the islanders of the south seas; the fruit, when half ripe, yields about a pint to a quart of one of the most refreshing and agreeable liquors in nature: this delicious beverage they often put amongst their pastes and puddings, and delight much to wash their mouth and hands with a little of it; the shell is, at this time, very soft, and is often eaten together with a little of the rind, but in no great quantities, it being apt to occasion costiveness; as the fruit grows older, the milk turns thicker, more luscious, and wastes away; the kernel begins to form round the edge, like a white transparent jelly, and is very nice eating in this state. When it is ripe, the kernel is hard and whire, about half an inch thick, and eats as well as a good nut; but the liquor is very indifferent, and, in a little time, wastes away; of the kernel they make two sorts of puddings, called Poe, and Etooó, and eat it roasted alone; they also make a sauce for of it, called Taiyero, by page 49steeping the kernel in sea-water, and often shaking it, till it is almost dissolved; but the greatest quantity is used in making monoe, or oil, to anoint their hair; for this purpose they grate the kernel very small, then put it into a wooden tray, or trough, cover it, and set it in the shade, and, as the oil falls to the edges, they take it up with a shell, and put it into a calabash for use; it smells very rank, for which reason they put it into a quantity of scented woods and plants; but after all it smells very heavy, and is apt to give an European the head-ach. The shell is used for their drinking cups, vessels to hold water, and to put their victuals in; and, for this purpose, they make them smooth by rubbing them with coral. The shell of the ripe ones is black, and the others brownish white; the outer-rind, after being soaked in water, and well beaten, is drawn out into threads, of which they make variety of plaited-line for girdles, to frap their flutes, for slinging their calabashes, and has the quality of not rotting with salt-water: with this stuff they also calk their canoes; and, in the East-Indies, they make cables of it; of the leaves they make bonnets, and baskets to put their bread-fruit and apples in: the liber of the young leaves, which are very thin and transparent, they tie up in bunches, and stick in their hair by way of ornament: the brown skin, which covers the leaf, before it is unfolded, serves also for various purposes; and the wood of this tree answers all other common purposes very well.

  • E papa.

Of the leaves of this tree, which are very white and glistering, when dried, they make their evanne-matting, much admired for its beauty.

  • E howira.

This grows chiefly in the low islands; of the split leaves they make, their best: mats for garments, to fit, and sleep upon.

  • E yeiyei.

This plant is of the nature of osier; of the stalks of it they work their round baskets, which they call Heenei, and in which they keep their victuals, and all their utensils.

  • Doodooe-awai & Oheparra.

With these they dye their poowhirre, or brown cloth.

page 50
  • Patarar.

An eatable root, which I did not see.

  • E nioee.

A fine eatable fruit, of a red colour, which I did not see.

  • E apatahei.

An elegant flower, which I also did not see.

  • Oowhe note Maowa.
  • Dioscorea-alata.

This plant produces the root so well known by the name of Ignames, all over the East and West-Indies: they have several sorts of it, but that which grows upon the hills is the best.

  • E nahae.

This is a fern, which has an extraordinary sweet smell, and, for this reason, it is used by the better sort of people to sleep on.

  • E ahei.

The wood of this tree, has a very rich and delicious smell; is of a yellow colour, and is the principal ingredient used in perfuming their monoe, being grated small, and put to foak amongst it; as it is very scarce, it is in great request amongst them; we could never get a sight of the tree, but were told it grew on the mountains. They have various other vegetables with which they perfume their monoe, and likewise their cloaths: the names of these are, Pooeva, Maiteeraow, Annee, Noonna, Ehaee, Amea, and Matehooa.

  • E atoo.

A plant of which they make mat garments.