Utilomar (Guettarda speciosa - Rubiaceae)

Description: Utilomar may take the form of a shrub or tree, growing to heights of 10 m (35 ft) or more. It has large, oblong leaves 12-30 cm (5-12 in) long; attractively scented, white, tubular flowers; and brown fruit about 2-3 cm (1 in) long.

Distribution: This native tree also occurs on many other tropical Pacific islands, like almost all of the plants found in strand vegetation or in forested areas of low coral islands.

Uses: This tree is sometimes planted by seed or cutting for its ornamental value. The name means "flower in the midst of foliage." The utilomar trunk provides house timber and its branches make excellent firewood. The wood of this tree is also considered to be the best to use through rubbing to start fires (kaar and kiden are also good for this use). Flowers of utilomar are used for female medicine, treating hemorrhoids, scenting coconut oil, and in making flower garlands for the head, ut pālpel, and for around the neck, ut mow mar. The flowers are also said to be used as a purgative and for treating headaches. The large leaves of utilomar are used to cover the um oven. Leaves are also used to make a baby bath and a remedy for headaches. The leaves are placed in hot water; then a towel is soaked in this water and it is put on the head. In a well-known story, the leaves of this plant are used for toilet tissue. Utilomar fruit mixed with coconut is a fast-acting antidote for fish poisoning.


Song: Utilomar is celebrated in a song for its fragrance and is often used for leis. The song, "The Coolness of the Evening,"(translated) contains the lines:

This garland I give you
Is to remind you of me.
This wreath simply woven--
this wreath of utilomar.
Now the scent wafts toward me.

The anthropologist Davenport (1954:235) was told by a Marshallese man that a beautiful woman named Labo, granddaughter of an Epoon chief, composed this song, the most popular in the Marshall Islands from 1938 to 1945. The lyrics have some Japanese words, and, according to Davenport, the melody has a somewhat Japanese sound.

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