The Tahitian gardenia (Gardenia taitensis), also known as the Tiaré flower, is one of about 140 species in the subtropical and tropical, evergreen, shrubby Gardenia genus (family Rubaceae). Although the first scientific specimens were collected in Tahiti (by Jules Dumont d’Urville, 1824), the species is not native or naturalized in Tahiti, rather it originated in Melanesia and Polynesia and traveled with aboriginals who introduced it to the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, and Hawaii.
This shrub has glossy dark green leaves and grows up to 4-6 meters (12-18 feet) in height. Like many Gardenia species, the Tahitian gardenia produces many white pinwheel flowers each up to 10 cm across with a strong, sweet fragrance. It is cultivated widely (especially the male plants, which produce more flowers) and propagated by cuttings. Across its distribution the flowers are worn behind the ear of men and women and strung into leis. Native Polynesians used infusions of the bark and flower in water or coconut oil (“Monoi,”) as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and other medicinal uses, and a scented cosmetic oil to protect skin and condition hair. Research by Bhagya et al. (2011) found support for anti-inflammatory and analgesic activity in mice and suggest it may be due to steroids in plant extracts. Claude-Lafontaine et al. (1992) chemically analyzed the volatile constituents of the flower, finding numerous dihydroconiferyl esters unique to the species.
(Bhagya et al. 2011; Claude-Lafontainea et al. 1992; Lorence, date unspecified; National Tropical Botanical Garden 2014; Wikipedia 2014)
Regularity: Regularly occurring
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable
Gardenia taitensis (also called Tahitian Gardenia or Tiaré Flower) is a species of plant in the Rubiaceae family. It is an evergreen tropical shrub that grows to 4 m tall, it has glossy dark green leaves (5–16 cm long) that are oppositely arranged along the stem. The flower is creamy white, pinwheel-shaped with 5 to 9 lobes (each lobe 2–4 cm long) and very fragrant. Native to the highland shores of the South Pacific, it has the distinction of being one of the few cultivated plants native to Polynesia. It is the national flower of French Polynesia and the Cook Islands.
The name Tahitian Gardenia is somewhat a misnomer because it is neither native nor naturalised in Tahiti. The first acceptable scientific name for the plant was based on Tahitian specimens collected by Jules Dumont d'Urville in 1824. Hence the scientific name of Gardenia taitensis, and the English name of Tahitian Gardenia or Tiaré Flower. It was first collected in Tahiti, by the Forsters on Captain Cook's first Pacific voyage (1768–1771), although it was misidentified as Gardenia florida.
- Gardenia weissichii
- Gardenia tahitensis
- Randia tahitensis
- Tiare mā'ohi, Tiaré tahiti (French Polynesia)
- Tiare māori, Tialé māoli (Cook Islands)
- Pua Samoa, Pua fiti (Samoa)
- Siale Tonga (Tonga)
- Bua (Fiji)
- Polynesian people in the pacific islands use the extremely fragrant blooms in their flower necklaces, which are called "Ei" in the Cook Islands, "Hei" in Tahiti or "Lei" in Hawai'i.
- In some Pacific island traditions, wearing a flower indicates relationship status. A flower worn on the left ear means the person is taken and on the right ear means available.
- The plant is believed to have medicinal properties to treat several ailments. In Tonga a bark infusion is dripped into the nose, eyes and mouth to treat "ghost sickness". In Samoa parts of the plant are used to treat inflammation.
- The flower is used to make Monoi Tiare Tahiti, a perfume-oil made by infusing the blossoms in coconut oil (see enfleurage).
- Tiare is also used in niche perfumery but its prohibitively high cost excludes use in commercial perfumery. Notable examples include Tiare by Ormonde Jayne launched in 2009 and Tiare by Chantecaille. The Tiare flowers are hand picked and then laid unopened in oil for 15 days to obtain the extract.
- Tiare is used in a line of Carol's Daughter hair care products for natural hair.
- International Organization for Plant Information (IOPI). "Plant Name Search Results" (HTML). International Plant Names Index. Retrieved 12 May 2009.
- The Tiaré Flower: "Emblem of TAHITI and pillar of Polynesian traditions, its Latin name is "Gardenia Tahitensis" but that magnificent little flowers with snow-white petals arranged in the form of a star is more popularly known as Tiaré Tahiti or Tiaré Mahoi (pronounced tee-a-ray)."
- Cook Islands Biodiversity & Natural Heritage Database : Gardenia taitensis - Tahitian Gardenia
- Gardenia taitensis - National Tropical Garden Plant Database
- Polynesian herbal medicine By W Arthur Whistler (1992) p. 52, 69, 150 Google Books
- The History of Monoi Tiare Tahiti at Monoi.com
- Ormonde Jayne - Tiare Perfume Collection by Linda Pilkington
- Chantecaille Tiare Perfume at chantecaille.com
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