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  • B.M. Allsopp

Sleeping tears: Fiji's national flower

Fiji's national red and white flower

Not many Fijians have seen a tagimaucia, beloved as the national flower of their island nation. This is not surprising as the tagimaucia (Medinilla waterhousei) is a creeper that races to the top of the rainforest canopy on mountain tops in Taveuni, Fiji's third largest island. It's a shame that the the plant stubbornly refuses cultivation, for the scarlet branches, bracts and delicate white flowers would surely beautify gardens everywhere.

Both Fijians and visitors are much more familiar with the flower's picture on the $50 note!

Fiji $50 note

The tagimaucia legend

A beautiful young girl (yes, she's a chief's daughter) whose father forbids her to wed her lowly sweetheart (yes, he's handsome, brave and true). To avoid marriage to her father's chosen bridegroom (yes, he's old and ugly), she runs away, far up the mountain where she loses her way. She cries as she struggles against entangling vines, eventually sinking into an exhausted sleep. Her pursuers find her garlanded with lovely red and white flowers, wherever her tears spilled on the vine. (Yes, her father relented and the young lovers married). Thus, the Fijian name tagimaucia, means crying in your sleep.

I heard this legend in Fiji. But today, rummaging round the Internet for a rendition of the song Tagimaucia, I stumbled on an alternative story, where the protagonist is a troublemaking chiefly Lothario who is banished from his village. The story is too long to tell here, suffice to say there are tears but no happy ending!

Wait, here's a song.

Sir Penaia Ganilau, is celebrated as a giant among Fijian statesmen and the nation's first president. But few know that he asked the musician Eremasi Cama Tamanisau to set the tale to the Malay tune he loved when he was Commander of the Fiji Contingent during the Malayan Campaign in the 1950s.

Why not listen to the song and read the alternative account by the lyricist's son on YouTube?

I was so excited to find this historic first recording of Tagimaucia Ga by the Fiji Broadasting Commission (FBC). The soloist is Ilisapeci Tamani, steel guitarist Dr. Rusiate Nayacakalou, lead guitar Apakuki Mate, ukulele Eremasi Tamanisau Snr with the FBC Choir.

I would love to answer any questions from readers about Fiji, or indeed about my books. Just leave me a message on or email me at

I look forward to hearing from you!


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