Meria (Plumeria sp.- Apocynaceae)

Description: Plumeria obtura and P. rubra are found in the Marshall Islands. Both are know as "meria" in the Marshall Islands. They have broad crowns and thick succulent branches that bear five-parted, fragrant flowers, each about 5 cm (2 in) in diameter. The smooth, oblong, pointed leaves, 20-40 cm (8-16 in) long, are produced in bunches at the branch ends. Their milky juice, typical of members of the periwinkle family (Apocynaceae), contains a little resinous rubber, and although it has medicinal properties, it is POISONOUS in large doses.

Distribution: Meria trees can be rooted rather easily from branch cuttings. They are native to tropical America and were introduced to the Marshall Islands after European contact.

Uses: Meria trees are now commonly grown as ornamental plants in the Marshall Islands. White, pink, and red-flowered varieties are cultivated in the islands. White flowers are used to make garlands and are sold for parties, welcoming events, and other social activities such as picnics and sports. They are also used (especially when they turn brownish with age) to add a pleasant scent to coconut oil. Both the leaves and the bark of meria are scraped, soaked in coconut oil, and applied to areas affected by bolok (scabies and itchiness). The treatment is applied continuously until healing occurs. Meria is the Marshallese version of the English word plumeris.

Main Plants


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