Preservation of Traditional and Medicinal Plants in Micronesia

Final Report for SW05-00C

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $36,115.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Western
State: Federated States of Micronesia
Principal Investigator:
Jim Currie
College of Micronesia-FSM
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Project Information


Preservation of Traditional and Medicinal Plants of Micronesia has generated public interest within Pohnpei, the FSM, University of Hawaii, School of Pharmacology and the Pacific Basin Agriculture Research Center. All constituents are now aware of the consequence of abuse of resources. People now understand the danger in losing indigenous knowledge without documentation of information. Most names collected during this project were thought to be right but we have found many problems. We also found variations in what part of the tree are identified by certain names. It has provided a target area for future research and potential project funding.

Project Objectives:

This is the state plan for a previously authorized regional activity. This state plan covers the three nations of the Micronesian region: Palau, Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshal Islands. This proposal has the following objectives:
To preserve and protect the unique biota of the Micronesian islands and in doing, preserve the parts of the culture evolved around these plants.
To assist in the publication of one medicinal and traditional plant book in each of Palau and RMI
To design a landscape plan and create a Traditional and Medicinal Plant Botanical Garden on the grounds of the College of Micronesia-Federated States of Micronesia Pohnpei Campus
To clearly identify and label all traditional and medicinal plants found in or transplanted to the Botanical Garden
To participate in and assist in the creation of a photographic layout of important traditional and medicinal plants proposed to be held at the University of Guam in FY’06.


Preservation of traditional and medicinal plants of Micronesia focuses on the island of Pohnpei. The site given to the project was selected due to its location but it was never considered that the area was dangerous and it would need more man power. COM-Pohnpei Campus was a camp site for the Japanese during the World War II. The site could be quite amusing and fascinating for any tourist who would visit. It’s a perfect plan but not perfect for the person who designed the area.

We managed to overcome our fears and proceed with the work. It was very hard trying to get answers from local staff and general population. Plants collected, walkways layout, trash constantly moving (average trash per week 60 bags), names changed (mis-spelled), plants killed by people, and plants walk away. It was a disaster when it first started but we made it through and were able to complete the project.
We looked into books that were written during the Japanese occupation and asked The Nature Conservancy (TNC) of Pohnpei for assistance. A book called Tuhken Pohnpei (Plants of Pohnpei) was used mostly but later it was found that most of the scientific names were wrong or plants had been renamed. This brought forth a major problem that needs a future focus. We were told that the New York Botanical Garden will be publishing a book on Plants of Pohnpei. As of now we have not seen such a book.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Cathleen Alten
  • Fredson Ardos
  • Bruno Barnabas
  • Julia Elridge
  • Totoa Fetalai-Currie
  • Timothy Franklin
  • Alpenster Henry
  • Yoneko Kanichy
  • Yoster Kemilios
  • Marcellino Martin
  • Maureen Mendiola
  • Debra Perman
  • Jackson Phillip
  • Augustine Primo
  • Tobias Tamerlin
  • Penny Weilbacher


Materials and methods:

Much of the work of collection, writing, photographing and layout for the two publications has already been completed. The authors have requested funding assistance to complete the publication. In both cases, many hours of work by local healers, botanists and government agencies have contributed to this effort. Participation from WSARE funding will be minimal.
A special consultant will be hired to design the layout of the botanical garden to create a lush, quiet, comforting setting in which to safely present and identify as many of the plants of traditional significance and/or with medicinal qualities are suitable for the chosen area. The area has been identified as a moderately sloped hillside separating the Pohnpei campus from the Legislative buildings. Through the use of perennial plants the hillside will be protected from erosion and will appeal to students, government workers and is in an appropriate place to beckon visitors and tourists as well. The consultant will be responsible to design the planting scheme for the area, select the plants to be presented, ensure proper transplanting develop identification signs to include scientific and common names, traditional uses and medicinal value if appropriate. A welcoming sign will be created to identify the gardens.
A photographic record of the traditional and medicinal plants of each of the nations will be created for use in a photographic layout for an identification scheme proposed for the University of Guam.

Research results and discussion:

We are still collecting and also replacing some plants that were stolen from the garden. It has been a major problem trying to control things from being stolen from the area.

Plants Collected
Plants used for medicine all Plants use for food & herbs 10
Plants use for firewood All large woody species
Plants use for carving, housing, canoe, weaving 6
Plants use for pillow 1
Plants use for aromatic 4

Total numbers of plants 93

Research conclusions:

Date Numbers of Visitors
December 06, 2006 (Opening Ceremony) 200 people were invited
50 COM-Pohnpei Staff
20 COM-Pohnpei students
January – April 2007 14 COM – FSM Ethnobotany class, 14 COM – Pohnpei English Class, 53 other visitors from SPC – Pacific Way, farmers, healers as well as visitors from outside of Pohnpei
May – June 2007 7 Missionaries from Texas, 10 farmers, 10 COM-Pohnpei Students


We hope to increase numbers of visitors to the garden, be able to work more with students, and also try to sustain the garden and keeping the garden.
We also hope to raise awareness of the importance of reviving important plants and keep them growing by targeting the young generation.

Participation Summary

Research Outcomes

No research outcomes

Education and Outreach

Participation Summary:

Education and outreach methods and analyses:

An article was published after the opening of the garden in December 06, 2006. During the opening approximately 200 people were present at the garden. The US Ambassador Suzanne Hale, the Board members of the College of Micronesia, Kaseleilia Press, the Land Grant Director was invited but did not show up at the opening, students of COM-FSM and COM-Pohnpei Campus, Students from Seventh Day Adventist School, farmers and local healers as well as general COM FSM staff and COM-Pohnpei Campus staff. During the opening the garden brochures were also given out to the public.
It is unfortunate that the publication in Palau was not ready in time and the funding was re-programmed for use in Pohnpei. The publication in the Republic of the Marshall Islands was completed but WSARE funding was not properly credited. Negotiations continue to correct this oversight.
In mid December 2006, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)-Pacific Way did an interview with the landscaper and also Jim Currie (Program Professional) and Jackson Phillip, (WSARE PDP Coordinator) concerning the garden. They were interested in the focus of the garden especially on local food. In the garden were plants that were used for food and also medicine. In February 2007, the Ethnobotany class from the COM-FSM held their class at the amphitheater that was set up inside the garden. They also took a tour around the garden to study all the plants that existed in the garden.
More tours came after that, COM – Pohnpei (English class), we were also visited by people that attended the National Biosafety Framework Workshop for the FSM. Such people were Dr. Keneti Faulalo, Coordinator for Pacific Islands UNEP-GEF Biosafety Unit, Apia, Samoa, SPC-Suva (forestry), Director Dennis Gonzalves USDA Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center (PBARC), Hilo Hawaii, Dr. Roger Hull, John Innes Centre for Plant Science & Microbiology Research, England, United Kingdom, Dr. Magnus Bosse, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and Dr. Virendra Mohan Verma, Micronesia Plant Propagation Research Center, Kosrae, FSM. Beside all these researchers we had a group of missionaries from Texas.

Education and Outreach Outcomes

Recommendations for education and outreach:

Areas needing additional study

There are many areas that need continued studies. Protecting local plants and raising awareness among young people really needs continuous work. Most of the younger generations from the ages of 4 to19 years old lack knowledge of local plants. A lot of people still don’t understand the concept of protecting plants for their own future. The major problem that we faced is the names of each plant. There is a real need to do another proposal based on the same name/project but with a different focus.
A recent discussion with Dr. Dennis Gonsalves, Director of PBARC showed great promise of developing collaborative efforts with the School of Pharmacology of the University of Hawaii, Hilo, Hawaii. Other visitors have commented on the uniqueness of this setting for use as the teaching tool at all levels of schooling. An on-going education and outreach program must be established to take full advantage of this spot in paradise.
The limited time frame of the project has resulted in some question of the proper nomenclature of some of the plants. It is absolutely imperative that further work be done to correctly name and identify all plants available in the garden. It is our hope that WSARE would allow us to submit another proposal based on the same project with a focus on identification and putting together a proper literature for the future use.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.