Cook Islands

Gardenia “Tiare Maori”

Gardenia taitensis

Photo of a tiare maori

General Description / Cultural Significance

The plant Gardenia taitensis is commonly referred to as Gardenia and locally referred to as “Tiare Maori.” The Gardenia is an evergreen shrub that grows a flower with large white pinwheel-shaped blooms and emits a sweet fragrance. The plant is well known in the country for being used to make leis, mixed in perfumes, and is sometimes used in local medicines. Infusions can be made by mixing the plant with water or coconut oil, and this can treat headaches. They can be used to scent coconut oil, which is then used to give massages. 

Climate Change/Conservation Status

The Cook Islands are highly vulnerable to climate change and especially to sea level rise, because their land masses are surrounded by ocean and prone to natural disaster. They have faced intense rainfall and cyclones, in addition to terrible drought. It is anticipated that both sea level rise and weather scenarios will intensify in the future. The UN has carried out projects to strengthen the resilience of communities who live on The Cook Islands. Subsistence agriculture and food security are two main areas that need addressing, as does the well-being of the biodiversity on the islands.

Alternate Names
Tiare Maori

Cowling, W.E., 2005. Tourism – A Catalyst For Attitudinal Changes in Aitutaki, Cook Islands. The Small Island Cultures Research Initiative. ISN: 0-9758246-1-9

Fuller, P., 2013. Cook Islanders struggle to adapt to creeping climate change. International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. [website]

Ministry of Agriculture, Cook Islands. This statement can be found on the World Sensorium original website.

Reti, M.J., 2008. An Assessment of the Impact of Climate Change on Agriculture and Food Security: a Case Study in the Cook Islands. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). [website]

Whistler, W., 1985. Traditional and herbal medicine in the Cook Islands. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, [website] 13(3), pp.239-280. DOI: 10.1016/0378-8741(85)90072-8

Worland, J., 2019. The Leaders of These Sinking Countries Are Fighting to Stop Climate Change. Here’s What the Rest of the World Can Learn. Time USA. [website]