Photo by Reinaldo Aguilar
Photo by Reinaldo Aguilar
General Description / Cultural Significance
The uci blossom, Evodia hortensis, is a shrub native to Fiji that grows clusters of cream-colored flowers and small fruits. The leaves have a pleasant scent, reminiscent of lemon verbena. It is used traditionally to make garlands and to create body oils. Men in Fiji wear the leaves as necklaces and garlands both raw and especially prepared when dancing to attract females. The uci blossom also has an extensive history of medicinal use, as it is anti-inflammatory and laxative. It was first used as medicine by the aboriginal people in Fiji. The liquid from the leaves is mixed with coconut oil to treat sore gums and they are crushed into water for a healing bath. The leaves are also rubbed on the body to heal bruising and blood clots. The bark can be used to ease body aches and childbirth pain. This shrub, or small tree, grows in the wild and is commonly planted in hung gardens and throughout villages, often used as a boundary marker. It is a highly regarded ceremonial plant that emits a penetrating perfume, and while it doesn’t necessarily always appeal to Europeans, Fijians are passionate about the scent.
Climate Change/Conservation Status
Fiji, long idealized as a perfect paradise, has become overwhelmed with environmental problems caused by both climate change and tourism. The continuing development to meet the needs of the country’s primary income, that of tourism, has brought about unstainable deforestation and fishing practices. As this is happening, climate change is taking its toll, eroding Fiji’s coastline and destroying its farmland with saltwater infiltration.
Where once the cyclone season was as regular as clockwork, now the timing of the storms exceeds the norms of that pattern bringing about additional impacts and vulnerabilities. The last out of season cyclone brought more rain in a week than they have ever seen before. For the first time the topic of climate change is on the forefront of every Fijian’s mind, as they come to realize that the future of Fiji depends on every country of the world’s actions against the effects of climate change. A billboard in the country reads “we are all in the same canoe rising up against climate change”.
Work is underway to both restore mangrove forests along the coast and to restore and repopulate. Fijians are coming to understand that they all must be involved in the national conversation about conservation.
Fiji islands and its ecosystems are full of flora with many unique species not found anywhere else in the world. The threat of climate change to this biodiversity is mounting, but at this time there are no reports of compromises to Evodia hortensis.