Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Ethnobotany of Pohnpei

Ethnobotany of Pohnpei: Plants, People, and Island Culture

Compiled and Edited by Michael J. Balick
Copyright Date: 2009
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Ethnobotany of Pohnpei
    Book Description:

    Ethnobotany of Pohnpeiexamines the relationship between plants, people, and traditional culture on Pohnpei, one of the four island members of the Federated States of Micronesia. Traditional culture is still very strong on Pohnpei and is biodiversity-dependent, relying on both its pristine habitats and managed landscapes; native and introduced plants and animals; and extraordinary marine life. This book is the result of a decade of research by a team of local people and international specialists carried out under the direction of theMwoalen Wahu Ileilehn Pohnpei(Pohnpei Council of Traditional Leaders). It discusses the uses of the native and introduced plant species that have sustained human life on the island and its outlying atolls for generations, including Piper methysticum (locally known as sakau and recognized throughout the Pacific as kava), which is essential in defining cultural identity for Pohnpeians. The work also focuses on ethnomedicine, the traditional medical system used to address health conditions, and its associated beliefs.

    Pohnpei, and indeed the Micronesian region, is one of the world's great centers of botanical endemism: it is home to many plant species found nowhere else on earth. The ultimate goal of this volume is to give readers a sense of the traditional ethnobotanical knowledge that still exists in the area, to make them aware of its vulnerability to modernization, and to encourage local people to respect this ancient knowledge and keep such practices alive. It presents the findings of the most comprehensive ethnobotanical study undertaken to date in this part of Micronesia and sets a new standard for transdisciplinary research and collaboration.

    387 color illus.

    Chapter contributors:Kiped Albert, Michael J. Balick, Jeff Daniells, Lois Englberger, Timothy Flynn, Wayne Law, Roberta A. Lee, Dana Lee Ling, Amy Levendusky, David H. Lorence, Adelino Lorens, Jackson Phillip, Diane Ragone, Bill Raynor.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-3749-5
    Subjects: Botany & Plant Sciences

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Michael J. Balick
  4. List of Primary Collectors
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Plants and People of Pohnpei: AN OVERVIEW
    (pp. 1-39)
    Michael J. Balick, David H. Lorence, Dana Lee Ling and Wayne Law

    Pohnpei is a special part of the world. It is a small island where people are openly friendly, extremely helpful, and genuinely interested in the welfare of others—rather unique in today’s modern world, but not unusual among traditional cultures. What is most lacking in many westerner’s lives—a sense of community—is omnipresent in Pohnpei. Part of our interest in Pohnpei is the role that community plays in fostering respect, including self-respect, which ultimately promotes respect for the environment.

    This book is intended as a contribution to our knowledge of the ethnobotany of Pohnpei, the relationship between plants, people,...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Yams and Their Traditional Cultivation on Pohnpei
    (pp. 40-62)
    Bill Raynor, Adelino Lorens and Jackson Phillip

    Of all the subsistence root crops on Pohnpei Island, the yam is by far the most important, although its importance to the prestige economy as a major component of feasts and competitions far outweighs its value as a food crop (Fig. 2.1). For several months of the year, the bulk of agricultural labor on Pohnpei is devoted to cultivation of the yam crop. Cultivation of large yams,sakau(Piper methysticumG. Forst.), and pigs is necessary to attain and hold status as a Pohnpeian man. Knowledge of yam cultivation is highly regarded in Pohnpei society and is surrounded by great secrecy....

  7. CHAPTER THREE Breadfruit and Its Traditional Cultivation and Use on Pohnpei
    (pp. 63-88)
    Diane Ragone and Bill Raynor

    Breadfruit is the principal component of indigenous agroforestry systems on Pohnpei, and indigenous agroforestry is a dominant feature of both the island’s landscape and culture, the result of more than two thousand years of development and refinement (Petersen 2006; Raynor 1994; Raynor and Fownes 1991). During this time, numerous crop introductions have been made through continued waves of migration (Raynor and Fownes 1991; Thaman et al. 2000; Zerega et al. 2004) and more recently through direct and indirect efforts of colonial administrations (Bascom 1965; Ragone et al. 2001).

    Pohnpeian agroforests provide many products for subsistence, sale, and social use, while...

    (pp. 89-131)
    Lois Englberger, Adelino Lorens, Amy Levendusky and Jeff Daniells

    Banana,Musasp., which includes plantain, is likely to be Pohnpei’s mostwidely used locally grown food crop (Bascom 1965; Corsi 2004; Englberger 2003a, 2004a; Fischer and Fischer 1957; Lorens 2006; Raynor 1991; Ward 1989). While yam is the most important crop in the traditional prestige system and breadfruit is considered by many as the most highly valued food crop, both of these are seasonal crops, separating the year into two parts,rekenleng(breadfruit season)¹ andrekenpwel(yam season). Bananas, on the other hand, are harvested throughout the year, consumed by Pohnpeians almost on a daily basis. As stated by one...

    (pp. 132-164)
    Lois Englberger, Kiped Albert, Adelino Lorens and Amy Levendusky

    Taro, in particular giant swamp taro,Cyrtosperma merkusii(Hassk.) Schott (mwahng) (Figs. 5.1 and 5.2), is an important local staple food in Pohnpei along with breadfruit, banana, and yam.¹ It is also important in times of food scarcity as well as having many nonfood uses (Ashby 1993; Bascom 1965; Corsi 2004; Merlin et al. 1992; Murai et al. 1958; Raynor 1991). Fischer and Fischer (1957) listedCyrtospermaamong the four most important food crops for Pohnpei and Chuuk, together with breadfruit, banana, and coconut.

    Furthermore, on the outer atolls of Pohnpei,Cyrtospermais considered the most important local starch food...

    (pp. 165-203)
    Michael J. Balick and Roberta A. Lee

    Sakau, known botanically asPiper methysticumG. Forst., is a species so tightly woven into the traditional practices of Pohnpei that it has become an integral part of Pohnpeian culture, with no palpable boundary between culture and plant. The power ofsakauin defining Pohnpeian culture and daily life is perhaps one of the best examples of the extraordinary influence of a single plant species on a people and their identity to be found in the Micronesian region. On Pohnpei,wahu(respect or honor) is the historic and contemporary foundation that defines its culture, society, and people.Wahu, in large measure,...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Traditional Medicine, Pohnpei, and Its Integration
    (pp. 204-216)
    Roberta A. Lee

    Pohnpeians, like other Polynesian and Micronesian island cultures, share a deep reverence for nature—in particular, plants. These organisms have shaped Pohnpeian life and culture, providing food, fiber, shelter, and medicines. This chapter focuses on the use of plants for healing, as part of the multidimensional Pohnpeian traditional medical system.

    Information about health and disease during the period preceding contact with Europeans is scarce (Hezel 2004). In the nineteenth century, the frequency of contact between Micronesians and westerners increased and as a consequence resulted in a substantial depopulation due to the transmission of communicable diseases that challenged the immune system...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Local Uses of Plants and Fungi on Pohnpei: AN ETHNOBOTANICAL COMPENDIUM
    (pp. 217-523)
    Elipiana Albert, Alfred Dores, Ben Ekiek, Primo Emos Eperiam, Robert Gallen, Mark Kostka, Relio Lengsi, Ally Raynor, Pelihter Raynor, Valentine Santiago, Francisca F. Sohl, Francisco Sohl, Mayorico Victor and Michael J. Balick

    This chapter presents information on how Pohnpeian plants are used, as well as their vernacular names. It is organized into five groups: fungi, gymnosperms, ferns and fern allies, monocotyledons, and dicotyledons and then arranged alphabetically by plant families, followed by an alphabetized list of genera and species. It is a synthesis of firsthand information gathered during plant collection activities and interviews, along with data from the literature. Fieldwork for this project commenced during a visit to Pohnpei in the fall of 1997 and developed into year-round activity beginning in 2001, when a team of local collectors, listed as authors of...

  13. CHAPTER NINE Checklist of the Vascular Plants of Pohnpei
    (pp. 524-566)
    David H. Lorence and Timothy Flynn

    Due to the island’s steep and rugged mountainous terrain, Pohnpei has not been thoroughly explored or surveyed biologically. Additional botanical exploration of these areas will certainly yield new species and records. Habitat modification to grow crops, including extensive cultivation ofsakau(Piper methysticum), has resulted in the destruction of much lowland native vegetation and threatens the vegetation even at higher elevations. Other than Glassman’s (1952) flora, no comprehensive account of the plants of Pohnpei exists. Glassman’s work has become outdated because numerous nomenclatural changes have taken place, revisionary work has changed taxonomic concepts, and many new cultivated and naturalized species...

  14. Index
    (pp. 567-586)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 587-593)