The local flowers, quite a history
The islands of French Polynesia are a flowery paradise. The high islands are particularly filled with beautiful flowers. Full of colors, just like this destination it represents in the eyes of many travelers, the local flora attracts and intrigues at the same time.
Whether endemic or coming from distant continents, these flowers have thrived thanks to climatic conditions that were ideal for their development. Formerly sacred to local ancestors, they are today a strong symbol and an integral part of the myth of these Tahitian islands that make the world dream. Auti, tipaniers, bougainvillea, birds of paradise, opuhi and of course, the tiare … each of these are surprising with their look and their enchanting perfume.
A closer look at some of these flowers: benefits and uses
The hibiscus flower has been around for centuries in Australia and Hawaii. In Polynesia, although there is an impressive number of different species and colors, it is the “red Aute ” that has been around for the longest time. This bright red flower is unique and recognizable among all thanks to its imposing petals. Traditionally worn by the Polynesian women as a decoration for their long hair, the hibiscus flower also has many virtues that make it an effective hair treatment and antioxidant for the skin.
The frangipani trees, commonly known as tipaniers in Polynesia, are also part of this wonderful local flora. Flowering all year, there are also several varieties with different colors and extremely pleasant scents. A few of these flowers arranged here and there are enough to perfume a room in the long term. The tipanier is very often used to make flower leis.
Finally, the Tahitian tiare flower is undoubtedly the most emblematic of the local flowers. But what do we really know about this flower whose perfume alone makes you travel? It is interesting to know that for Polynesians, the tiare Tahiti has 10 different names depending on its stage of maturity. Another amazing fact, this flower is also used for all kinds of traditional remedies. But its best known use around the world is undoubtedly the famous tiare monoi of Tahiti; this very soft oil used for babies from birth, to nourish the hair, for a golden tan or to prevent mosquito bites.
Another rather surprising element that makes happy visitors smile is the special messages that the tiare flower convey, depending on how men and women wear it. Placed on your left ear, on the side of your heart, it indicates that you are taken. Worn on the right, it means that you are free. If you wear two flowers, one on each ear, it means that you are married but still available. And finally, worn backwards, it means that you are available immediately … In other words, it’s an entire language of flowers to know! Overall, the tiare is the flower symbol of Tahiti, and it is a sign of welcome. As suche, it is most certainly the flower that will be used to welcome you at the airport.
Emblems of Tahiti and its islands, at the heart of Polynesian life
All these flowers have different looks, gorgeous colors and captivating scents that fit perfectly with the atmosphere of our sunny islands. These flowers, like so many others, are an integral part of Polynesians’ daily lives. Indeed they live in harmony with the flora that surrounds them and is omnipresent. Often in all these islands, the gardens are flowered and are the pride of their passionate owners. Many people make a living by growing hundreds of plants in order to meet the high demand of flowers from hotels or simply to make the beautiful flower leis or bouquets that are often found in markets such as the one in Papeete.
The importance of flowers in Tahiti and her islands is such that they are illustrated in various areas of the local culture. They can be found in dance shows, in traditional tattoos, or through the patterns of polynesian fabrics. They hold an essential place in many fields. True tahitian jewel, the local flora sublimates the vahine (tahitian woman) daily. Gatherings and celebrations are of course even more flowery, symbolizing this joy and this sweetness of life proper to the Polynesians.
The flowers of Tahiti and her islands, their colors and their scents are truly at the heart of the Polynesian world. Just mentioning their name can make you travel and their incomparable scents leave a lasting mark on the lucky visitors who have the chance to travel here.
Photo credit: Tahiti Tourisme & Tapu Horley