Loss of plant words

I did a first day exercise with my ethnobotany class involving five plants. I had the whole class stand. I asked students to remain standing if they knew the name of the plant in their own language. I chose leaves from five plants that I felt ran from easiest to hardest:
  1. Breadfruit, Artocarpus altilis
  2. Bird's nest fern, Asplenium nidus
  3. Ixora casei.
  4. Melastoma malabathricum var. marianum (pisetikimei)
  5. Giant Caroline island ginger, Alpinia carolinensis (iuiu)
Everyone stood up. When I held up the breadfruit leaf, no one sat down. I expected that.

When I held up the Bird's nest fern I expected the Kosraean and possibly the Chuukese students to sit down. I was a tad shocked when everyone sat down.

I then went around the room and cross-checked. Four young Pohnpeian men, and only four, knew the name. They stood back up - they had sat down because they were not sure.

The four were able to name the next two, but none of the four knew the iuiu. No Pohnpeian in the class recognized iuiu. At the end, no one was standing.

I did not expect anyone to name the iuiu, but the loss of tehnlik was a shocker.


Artocarpus altilis, Breadfruit
Chuukese name: Maichul
Kosraen name: Mos, possibly ikunlal or fohksrasrok
Pohnpeian name: Mai uhp
Yapese name:

Asplenium nidus
Chuukese: Choolek, Neek
Kapingamarangi: rokoh
Kitti: Toahnlik
Kosraen: Muhlihklihk
Mwoakilese: Kardoap
Pohnpeian: Tehnlik

Ixora casei
Chuukese name: Achiou
Kosraen name: Kalsruh
Pohnpeian name: Ketieu
Pingelapese: Keliseu
Yapese name: Waish

Alpinia carolinensis
Pohnpei: iuiu
Yap: chifif

Melastoma malabathricum var. marianum
Pisetikimei

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