By R. Bourdeix, V. Saena Tuia and Alofa Leuluaialii

This website returns the information collected during four scientific visits conducted in 2001, 2010, 2012 and 2017 on behalf the Ministry of Agriculture of Samoa, the International Coconut Genetic Resources Network, the Secretatiat of the South Pacific Community, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, Bioversity International and the French Centre for Agricultural Research and Development, Coconut Industry Development for the Pacific (CIDP project) and the Darwin Initiative "Saving Pacific Coconuts".



Earliest references on the variety niu afa or niu kafa

History of botanics in Samoa
From:
Whistler, W. A. (1984). Annotated list of Samoan plant names. Economic Botany, 38(4), 464-487.

The first significant botanical work carried out in Samoa was done by the United States Exploring Expedition in 1839; although the expedition's naturalists made large plant collections, apparently no Samoan names were recorded. During the next half-century, several other large collections were made, mainly by 3 amateur European botanists--E. Graeffe, a Swiss physician, T. Powell, an English missionary, and J. Whitmee, also an English missionary. Of the three, apparently only Powell recorded Samoan names for the plants. In 1868, he published an extensive list which remains one of the best sources for Samoan plant names, not only because of its antiquity, but also because Powell was a meticulous naturalist who spoke Samoan.
A second phase of botany in Samoa was characterized by the activities of professional European botanists. In 1898, F. Reinecke published the first flora of Samoa, based upon his field work of a few years earlier. Reinecke's flora includes many vernacular names, apparently based primarily on his own work. Several years later, in his monumental book Die Samoa-Inseln, A. Kr~mer (1903), who was not a botanist, included an extensive list of Samoan plant names. These names were not, for the most part, obtained from original field work by the author, but were based primarily on the work of Reinecke, G. Pratt, and Powell. The botanical information in Pratt's Samoan dictionary (1911) was based in turn mostly upon Powell's list. Kr~imer's list is, however, valuable since new botanical identifications and clarifications were added. Four other professional botanists collected in Samoa shortly after Kr~imer and Reinecke's work--K. Rechinger, F. Vaupel, C. Lloyd, and B. Hochreutiner--but they recorded few Samoan names.

1845 - Tonga

Rabone, S.1845. A vocabulary of the Tongan Language, arranged in alphabetical order: to which is annexed a list of idiomatic Phrases, Vava'u. 1856.

This dictionary cites different coconut varieties:



Other kind of coconut palm are also cited:
  • Ui, s. A call ; the name of one kind of cocoa nut.
  • Kafakala, s. One kind of cocoa nut.
  • Kita, 8. Tetanus ; a relapse ; one kind of cocoa nut.
  • Loholohotahs, s. One kind of cocoa nut. (Loboloho means the the branch on which the nuts grow, so this probably spicata form)
1862 - Samoa

Pratt, G. (1862). A Samoan dictionary: English and Samoan, and Samoan and English; with a short grammar of the Samoan dialect. London Missionary Society's Press.

Niu'afa: a cocoanut from which cinnet is made.

Other interesting informations to study further;

A, an affix to some nouns to form adjectives, signifying full of, abounding in ; as, niu a cocoanut : niua, full of cocoanuts.
  • 'A'ano, s. flesh of animals. 2. The kernel of a cocoa-nut.
  • 'Afa'afa, o. strong, robust; applied to tnen. 
  • Niu,s., Malay, niyor and niula. 1. The cocoanut tree (Cocos nucifera). 
  • Ipitfi, s. a soft edible cocoa-nut shell thought yo be medicinal. 
  • La'ita, 8. a cocoa-nut bearing large clusters of small nuts. 
  • Le'a, s. 1. One kind of 'ava. 2. One kind of cocoa-nut.
  • Niu’afa, s. A, 8. a large kind of cocoa nut, the husk of which produces long fibres from which sinnet is made. 
  • Niualava and Niuui, s. two kinds of cocoanut. 
  • Niufetepulu, s. Cocoanut with much husk and a small nut. 
  • Niula'ita. See La’ita. 
  • Niule’a, s. one kind of cocoanut
  • Niumagumagu, s. the name of popo (old cocoanuts) at Sapapalii. (note from RB : to be linked to the variety Niu magi magi in Fiji). 
  • Niumea, s., one kind of cocoanut. 
  • Niutetea, s. lit. the albino cocoanut, a pale-leafed cocoa-nut. Sasave, s. one kind of cocoanut having no stem to the fruit (note from rb : spicata). 
1865 - Tonga

West, Rev Thomas. Ten Years in South-central Polynesia: Being Reminiscences of a Personal Mission to the Friendly Islands and Their Dependencies, Illustrated with a Portrait and Maps. J. Nisbet & Company, 1865.

"the natives (from Tonga) reckon at least nine different kinds of cocoa-nut trees, for all of which they have distinctive names, such as the niu-kafa, niu-ui, niu-leka etc....."

1868 - Samoa

Powell, Thomas. "On various Samoan plants and their vernacular names." J. Bot 6 (1868): 278-285.

Niu (Cocos nucifera), of which there are several varieties, viz. : — Niu-'afa : the long kind esteemed for the length of its fibre, and preferred for making the 'afa (cinnet). Niualava : the strong-fibred kind. Niui vel Niuni : the dark kind. Niufetepulu : much husk and small nut. Niule'a : a low tree. Nut small. Fruit sweet. Fruits early, so that for years persons may pick the fruit while stand on the ground ; never (?) attains a great height. Niu mea