Please note that all content (photographs and text) are copyright of the author. I have licenced the contents of my blog under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License:This means that you can repost and use material for non commercial use only and as long as you give credit to me as the author and include the same conditions for anyone else to use the material likewise.Refer to the link for more information: Creative CommonsAttribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Intriguing Plants – Weeds and Flowers

Intriguing Plants – Weeds and Flowers

Our front and back lawn at Alafua is a jungle with some rather obnoxious grasses which at the same time have their own beauty.

PHOTO of Kyllinga polyphylla

Kyllinga polyphylla or Navua sedge belongs to Cyperaceae (Sedge Family) and is native to tropical Africa. It spreads via underground rhizhomes and is considered a pest in cattle pastures because cattle do not eat them and they displace other grasses that cattle do eat.

PHOTO of Kyllinga polyphylla
Their subglobous flower-heads do look interesting, especially with the leaf-like bracts radiating out and could possibly be used in flower arrangements by the more daring. However, in a lawn they are tedious to eradicate since you basically need to dig the rhizomes out (unless you are into herbicide which I am not all that fond of). Alternatively you could go for the long slow death of covering the affected spots with something like black plastic, old roofing iron or anything that  will ensure that the spot gets no sunlight and the plants die out.

PHOTO of Kyllinga polyphylla with Spathoglottis plicata
Trust me digging them out is the fastest and surest method barring herbicides of course but without the hassle of dealing with herbicides and the potential problems / dangers of handling, using let alone storing them not to mention having to get a permit to buy, store and use them. (See below for additional information on this). And on top of that there are the potential rather unpleasant side effects of using pesticides like paraquat. I have included a few links below to recent medical studies on this for those who may be interested in reading more.

PHOTO of Kyllinga polyphylla

At the moment we have a huge problem with this grass at Alafua as the back lawn is 75-80% covered in it while a large section of the front lawn 45-50% is also covered with it.

I dug a whole bunch of them out of the bed of Zepheranthes rosea (Pink Rain lilies) a while ago. Now I am trying to decide how to deal with them. As interesting as the flowers do look especially with macro photography they really ruin the lawn turning it into a thick jungle ... which admittedly the kittens absolutely love prowling and prancing and bounding through like a bunch of psychotic miniature Sabre toothed tigers high on cat nip.
Maybe I can arrange for an area to be kept for them to practice their stalking and hunting skills in.

PHOTO of Kyllinga nemoralis
Here is Kyllinga nemoralis a close relative to Kyllinga polyphylla as you can see. It is known as kili’o’opu in Hawaii and mo’u’upo’o in Tahiti. I have not found any other common names.

PHOTO of Cyperus rotondus
Text  Cyperus rotondus also belonging to Cyperaceae (or Sedge Family). It is known as nut sedge (English); kili’o’opu (Hawaiian); mumuta (Samoan) and pakopako (Tongan). I cannot see anyone including it in a flower arrangement even though the flowers do look interesting in a Macro photograph.
PHOTO of Oxalis corniculata
I posted a macro photo of this before in which I referred to it as clover whereas in fact it is actually Oxalis corniculata or wood sorrel (English); ‘ihi’ai (Hawaiian); kihikihi (Tongan). It belongs to Family Oxalidaceae (Wood-sorrel Family).

An interesting fact about this plant is that according to Whistler (1994) it is used in traditional Polynesian medicine to treat infants however he does not specify what aliments it is used for. I assume he covers that in his book on traditional medicines (which I do not have).

PHOTO of Oxalis corniculata
Interestingly the species in the Oxalis Genus are often refered to as “False Shamrocks” so my mistaking it for clover is not that grave an error since apparently many people do that too. Still I a kind of disappointed that it is NOT clover.

PHOTO of purple variety (To Be Added)

Here is another plant which I also thought was a type of clover and now think might be a species in the Oxalis genus. I am not sure if it might be Oxalis corniculata or not. I have a feeling that it is not. It is not shown in Whistler’s “Wayside Plants of the Islands” which I found surprising since it is pretty authoritative. Maybe it is one he missed or a new introduction since he compiled it.

PHOTO of vineta
This little beauty is no doubt familiar to those who grew up in the islands and used to collect and eat the tiny bitter fruit we called vineta / vigeka (perhaps from vinegar due to the bitter vinegar taste?). Yes we used to eat all sorts of weird things as children. From picking certain hibiscus flowers and sucking the nectar out to driving the adults mad by picking the half ripe mangos and then eating them with salt or salt and curry powder. I still do not understand why THEY did not just do the same since I still occasionally will eat a mango like that.

In any case the flowers although miniscule look quite enchanting with the aid of Macro photography.

PHOTO of vineta
I have not yet tracked down what it's binomial (scientific) name is or what it's other vernacular names are.


Family Cyperaceae

Genus Kyllinga
Kyllinga polyphylla or Navua sedge belongs to Cyperaceae (Sedge Family)

Kyllinga nemoralis a
Genus Cyperus
Cyperus rotondus also

Family Oxalidaceae
Oxalis corniculata wood sorrel Family Oxalidaceae

 Paraquat (dipyridylium)

Yes you need a permit to buy herbicides here in Samoa. I’m not sure if this applies to all of herbicides and pesticides of just the herbicides like Paraquat. The primary reason for this is to restrict access to paraquat by potential suicide vicitims.

Death by Paraquat poisoning was for a long time one of the most common methods of suicide in Samoa. The Health department tried for many years to have to banned but due to its widespread use and efficacy as a weed killer this was resisted. In fact efforts to ban or restrict access and use was on an international level due to its use as a suicide agent among developing nations.

There were several reasons for this. First of all it is highly toxic (1 teaspoon being leathal), 2. There is no antidote 3. It is easily available and 4. It is relatively cheap. One of the worst things about paraquat poisoning is that it is a slow and horribly painful death. It was also a common method used to poison dogs by thieves targeting neighbourhoods.

Eventually government decided to control its use. Now to be able to buy paraquat (if I recall correctly) you need a permit which also requires you to have a safe place in which to keep it locked up. Inspections are made to verify that you are actually keeping it locked up and I think that there are even penalties if anyone uses paraquat in your control to commit suicide.

According to statistics gathered so far the regulations have had an impact in reducing suicides overall. However, it is still the primary cause of death by suicide and after an initial drop.

However, perhaps people may start to reconsider using paraquat once they hear about several studies over the last few years which show a clear link between paraquat and Parkinson's disease. The worst part of this being that it is not just users who have a higher (3x) chance of getting Parkinsons but anyone who has lived or worked in areas where paraquat has been used.

Here are some additional resources on this topic for those interested.

Flora and Fauna - Plants and Critters Blog by Vincent Albert Vermeulen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at

Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Additional information:

As I said I will be posting the photographs of the statues on another blog which will cover “A blog about art, sculpture, food, history, culture, literature among other things. Basically this blog will be a catch all for other topics that I cannot logically cover in my existing blogs:

·         Flora and Fauna - Plants and Critters (on plants, animals as well as gardening, conservation and environmental matters)

·         The Blood of  Souls (language, translation and etymology)

·         Whiskers on Kittens (Life with Kittens and Cats in general)


Whistler, W. Arthur, “Wayside Plants of the Islands. A Guide to the Lowland Flora of the Pacific Islands including Hawai’i Samoa Tonga Tahiti Fiji Guam Belau”, Isle Botanica, Honolulu, 1995.

ISBN 0-9645426-0-9

No comments:

Post a Comment