Plants and their uses in the Marshalls

Plants used for construction and tools

compiled by Dirk H.R.Spennemann

Marshallese plants used for traditional manufacture/construction

Scientific nameCommon nameMarshalleseUtilised partsUsed for
Allophyllus timorensis kedakstemfishing pole
Artocarpus altilis/ A. mariannensisBreadfruit woodcanoe hulls, outrigger floats, canoe bailers, Pandanus scrapers (legs), food bowls, drums, coconut graters (legs), weaving support panels
  sapglue (for canoe caulking)
Boerhemia nivea armwestemscordage, men”s skirts (chiefs), nets, sowing thread
Bruguiera gymnorrhizaMangroveJoŻwooddancing spears, fishing spears, house construction, canoes (sacrificial keel), canoes (outrigger assembly: kie, apit, kein-eon erre), copra huskers
  young stemsfishtraps, arrowroot sieves (waliklik)
  barkdye, cordage/rope, fishing nets
Callophyllum inophyllum lukwejwoodbeaters, pounders (for breadfruit), canoes (outrigger assembly: kie, apit)
Cassytha filiformis kaönönvinessieve (for arrowroot)
Cocos nuciferaCoconutNiwoodhouses, fishing spears, spears (weapons)
  frond skinweaving
  frond stemsstickcharts
  frondsthatching, floor cover of houses
  leavesbaskets, weaving (mats)
  leaf cloth (spathe)sieve (for arrowroot), fishing gear (lure/bait)
  husksrope, men”s skirts, fishing line, line to tie canoe parts, fishing nets, nets for breadfruit cleaning, belts, sanitary pads, sling shots, caulking material for canoes
  shellfishing gear (float), fish hook, containers (flour, water etc.), cups, bowls, ladles, to scrub clothes, Pandanus scrapers (bowls), beads (for necklaces)
  shell (burnt)dye
Cordia subcordata könostemsmen”s skirts
  woodCanoes (outrigger assmebly: apit & kie)
Fragrea wutwoodfire plow, Pandanus or coconut graters (legs)
Hernandia sonora Pinpinwoodfishing gear (net handles), canoe ornaments, canoes (parts of the outrigger assembly)
Hibiscus tiliaceus lostems (bark)men”s skirts, fishing line, fishing nets, belts, fishing gear (blinkers), weaving (ornamenątation for mats)
Lumnitzera littoreaMangrovekimemewoodCanoes (outrigger assembly: apit & kie), canoes (sacrificial keel piece)
Messerschmidia argenteaTournefortiakidenwoodCanoes (outrigger assembly: apit & kie)
Morinda citrifolia Nenrootsdye (red)
Musa sapientumBanana leavesfibres
Pandanus tectoriusPandanusBöbleavesweaving (mats, sails, fans, hats, belts), thatching, baskets, mat bags, caulking (canoes), balls, ear ornaments, fishing gear (blinkers), sling shots, sanitary pads
  woodneck rests
  aerial rootsfishtraps, wall covers of houses, arrowroot sieves (waliklik), putty for caulking canoes (scrapings from the roots)
  roots(sap) tanning of drum typana
Pemphis acidula köŻewoodPandanus scrapers (legs), beaters, caulking chisels, canoes (outrigger assembly: apit & kie), fish traps, pounders (for breadfruit)
Pipturus argenteus armwestalksfibres, cordage, fishing lines
Pisonia grandisPisoniakanglwoodhouse construction, drums, copra huskers, head-shaped forms for hat weaving
  rootshark hook, parts of fish traps
Premna corymbosa kaarstemfishing pole
Scaevola frutescensScaevolakönnatwoodcanoes (outrigger assembly: kie, apit)
Sonneratia caseolarisMangrove könpatwoodcanoes (sacrificial keel piece)
Tacca leontopetaloidesArrowrootmakmökstemsweaving (hats)
Terminalia samoensis Kkonwoodcanoes (outrigger assembly: kie, apit)
Triumfetta procumbens atatstemslight cordage, men”s skirts, belts, fine weaving
  rootsbrown dye
Wedelia biflora markubwebwe  
BambooBamboo stemscontainers (needles, glowing coals etc.), spears (weapons, fishtraps (slithers)
Redwood kämejwoodcanoe hulls, drums


Abo, T., B.W.Bender, A.Capelle & T.DeBrum
1976Marshallese-English Dictionary. PALI language Texts: Micronesia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Born, Ludwigs
1911Beitrage zur Kenntnis der Eingeborenenmedizin der Marschallaner. Deutsches Kolonialblatt 12,168-169.

Brandeis, Antonie
1908Südsee-Erinnerungen. Deutsche Kolonialzeitung XXV

Chamisso, Adalbert von
1836Reise um die Welt. Leipzig.
1986A yoyage around the world with the Romanzov exloring expedition in the years 1815-1818 in the Brig Rurick, Captain Otto von Kotzebue. (translated by H.Kratz). Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Erdland, Augustin
1906 Wörterbuch und Grammatik der Marshallsprache nebst ethnographischen Erlaueterungen und kurzen Sprachübungen. Archiv Deutscher Kolonialsprachen. Vol.IV. Berlin: Georg Reimer.
1909Die Stellung der Frauen in den Häuptlingsfamilien der Marschallinseln. Anthropos IV,
1914Die Marshall Insulaner. Leben und Sitte, Sinn und Religion eines Südsee-volkes. Anthropos Bibliothek. Internationale Sammlung Ethnologischer Monographien, Vol.2(1). Münster: Aschendorffsche Verlagsbuchhandlung.

Finsch, Otto
1893Ethnographische Erfahrungen und Belegstücke aus der Südsee. Annalen des K.K.Naturhistorischen Hofmuseums 7. Vienna: K.K.Naturhistorisches Hofmuseum.

Hager, Carl
1886Die Marshall Inseln in Erd- und Voelkerkunde, Handel und Mission. Leipzig: G.Lingke.

Hernsheim, Franz
1883Südsee-Erinnerungen Berlin.
1887Die Marshall-Inseln. Mittheilungen der geographischen Gesellschaft in Hamburg 1885-1886 (1887), 297-308.

Kotzebue, Otoo von
1821Entdedeckungsreise in the Südsee und nach der Bering Strasse. Weimar.

Krämer, Augustin & Hans Nevermann
1938Ralik-Ratak (Marschall Inseln). In: G.Thilenius (ed.), Ergebnisse der Südsee-Expedition 1908-1910. II. Ethnographie, B: Mikronesien. Vol. 11: Hamburg: Friedrichsen & de Gruyter.

Lay, W. & C.M.Hussey
1963A narrative of the mutiny on board of the whalesship Globe. New York: Corinth Books. (Reprint of the 1825 original).

Steinbach, Erwin
1893Bericht über die Gesundheitsverhältnisse der Schutzgebiete der Marshall-Inseln. Mittheilungen von Forschungsreisenden und Gelehrten aus den Deutschen Schutzgebieten 6, 306-313.
1895aBericht über die Gesundheitsverhältnisse der Eingeborenen der Marshall-Inseln. Mittheilungen von Forschungsreisenden und Gelehrten aus den Deutschen Schutzgebieten 8, 157-171.
1895bBericht über die Gesundheitsverhältnisse der Marshall-Inseln. Mittheilungen von Forschungsreisenden und Gelehrten aus den Deutschen Schutzgebieten 8, 171-175.

Witt, Jakob
1881Die Marschall-Gruppe, Annalen der Hydrographie IX.

Bibliographic citation for this document

Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (2000). Plants and their uses in the Marshalls - Plants used for construction and tools. Albury:
URL: http:/

Dirk H.R. Spennemann, Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia.

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