This guide comprises a taxonomic key to the most commonly used medicinal plants in Samoa,followed by an account of each of the species. The featured species, which are the same plantsincluded in
Samoan Herbal Medicine
(Whistler 1996), are arranged in alphabetical order by their Samoan name. The accounts include the scientific same of the plant, the family to which it belongs, its English name (if any), followed by a botanical description. Following thedescription are notes on the species’ status (native or introduced), range, habitat, and any other names they are known by in Samoa. Following the taxonomic key are a glossary of the botanicalterms used in the key, and an index to the Samoan names, including the less commonly usedones, which may be of some help in locating plants when the less common names are used.The Samoan plant names are written phonetically in this guide, although this is a not common practice in written communication between Samoans and in newspapers. In spoken Samoan,most letters are pronounced as they are in English, with the exception of the vowels (a is pronounced AH, e is pronounced as the a in “day,” i pronounced EEE as the two e’s in “bee,”and u is pronounced OOOH--rhyming with moo) and the letter g, which is pronounced as an“NG.” All Samoan words end in a vowel, consonants are never found next to each other, and allvowels are pronounced, even where several occur in a row. The pronunciation stress in Samoanwords is almost always on the penultimate (next-to-the-last) syllable. A macron over another vowel (written as a line drawn over it) means that it is stressed instead of the expected one. Anapostrophe represents a glottal stop, which is a break in a word. Thus the word
(banana) is pronounced FAH-EEE rather than FEYE (
, to make).To identify an unknown medicinal plant, the taxonomic key is used first. If the plant keys outto a Samoan name, the description of the plant in the species accounts’ section can then beconsulted to see if the plant fits the botanical description. Also included in the S.A.R.E. projectthat produced this guide are laminated herbarium specimens, upon which are mounted color photographs, and these specimens can be compared to the unknown plant to assist inidentification. Not all medicinal plants are included in this guide, only the most common ones,so the unknown medicinal plant may still elude identification.
A taxonomic key is a written device used by taxonomists (scientists who study classification)in order to help in the identification of plants. A brief description on how they are used is given below. A key is basically composed of a number of sequential pairs (often called “couplets”) of opposing descriptive statements given to the reader, who then selects the one that best fits the plant (or animal) he or she is trying to identify. For example, the opposing choices of the coupletof a typical key may read1. Leaves oppositely arranged1. Leaves alternately arrangedMany of the choices in the key, i. e., the two parts to the couplet, are not next to each other, sinceother couplets may directly follow the chosen part of the couplet, so the reader may have tosearch the text to find the other similarly numbered part. The choice that best fits the plant is