PROTO-POLYNESIAN ETYMOLOGIES
*Futu
The tree Barringtonia asiatica and related species (Lechythidaceae)
From PROTO AUSTRONESIAN *butun, Barringtonia asiatica, "Fish poison tree" (Lechythidaceae).
through PROTO OCEANIC *putu(n), Barringtonia asiatica.

Proto Nuclear Polynesian: *Futu
REFLEXES IN SOME POLYNESIAN LANGUAGES:
Tongan, Niuean, Samoan : Futu (Barringtonia asiatica, "Fish poison tree ", Lechythidaceae)
Marquesan, Tahitian, Tuamotu: Hutu (Barringtonia asiatica)
Rarotongan: 'utu (Barringtonia asiatica)
Maori: Hutu (Ascarina lucida, Chloranthaceae); Pōhutukawa, Hutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa, Myrtaceae)

Barringtonia
Tapa-Samoa
Barringtonia asiatica - Futu
[Above] Leaves and part of trunk of young tree
[Left] Sapling (Botanical Garden of Samoa, Tiapapata)

COGNATE REFLEXES IN SOME OTHER AUSTRONESIAN LANGUAGES
Ivatan (Northern Philippines): Vuton (Barringtonia asiatica, "Fish poison tree", Lechythidaceae)
Tagalog (Philippines): Boton, Botong (Barringtonia asiatica)
Javanese (Indonesia): Butun (Barringtonia asiatica)
Wayan, Bau (Fiji): Vutu (Barringtonia asiatica)

NOTE - THIS PROTO-PAGE IS STILL IN THE EARLY STAGES OF CONSTRUCTION!

This is a word that has been carried throughout Austronesia with little change in form or meaning -- Barringtonia asiatica is called Boton (= Butun) in Tagalog and most Philippine languages (Vuton in Batanes Islands, the closest point to Taiwan from where the word was dispersed) and Futu or Hutu in the Polynesian languages wherever it is found. The Barringtonia tree is not native to Hawaii or Aotearoa, and its Austronesian name is not found in Hawaiian, but it was carried to Aotearoa and applied to an apparently quite different tree, Ascarina lucida, a small forest tree growing to about 6 metres high, with quite different leaves. However the fruit of the New Zealand hutu, while not at all like that of its tropical namesake, does vaguely resemble the unopened flower buds of the Barringtonia. The New Zealand tree is also aromatic, and this may have reminded the early Polynesian explorers of the aromatic flowers of the Barringtonia. Hutu also formed part of a new name apparently originating in the Cook Islands, for the pōhutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa), which does have flowers and a shape reminiscent of the original *futu, and, like the Barringtonia, is a prominent shoreline tree.

In the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia and the Pacific the Barringtonia is a characteristic tree of swanp and coastal forests. It can even stand having its roots immersed in sea water for extended periods. Its large fruit (about the size of a fist) floats on water, and, as with the mangrove and the coconut, the sea is a major means of its distribution. The seed is also ground up into a powder used to immobilize or kill fish (all parts of the plant carry a powerful toxic glucoside). From a distance, Barringtonia in bloom would look very like a white-blossomed pōhutukawa, so it is not hard to imagine why the old name was reapplied in the combinations hutukawa and pōhutukawa. (See the further discussion of the "new" uses of reflexes of *futu in the page for *pōhutukawa.)

*Futu-flower[Barringtonia asiatica flower.]

*Futu[Barringtonia asiatica, mature tree.]

Further information : There is a page devoted to this tree, with photographs of the flower and fruit, on the Cook Islands Biodiversity database web site.
Photographs: UBC Botanical Garden (flower); "Dave's Garden" website (Barringtonia asiatica - mature tree); Others, R.B.

Te Mära Reo, c/o Benton Family Trust, "Tumanako", RD 1, Taupiri, Waikato 3791, Aotearoa / New Zealand. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License