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The Maluku Islands are an archipelago in Indonesia, and part of the larger Maritime Southeast Asia region. Tectonically they are located on the Halmahera Plate within the Molucca Sea Collision Zone. Geographically they are located east of Sulawesi, west of New Guinea, and north of Timor. The islands were also historically known as the Spice Islands by the Chinese and Europeans, but this term has also been applied to other islands.

Flora and fauna
Flora and fauna

Born in 1627, in Wolfersheim, Germany, G. E. Rumphius was fascinated by botany at an early age. His military duty for the VOC (Dutch East India Company) brought him to Batavia (Jakarta) at the age of 25. One year later he arrived in Ambon, where he would settle for life. He conducted research in Hila village, lived next to fort Amsterdam, and composed, among other works, Ambonische Kruidboek, "The Flora of Amboina".

Rumphius was keen to discover new plant species and conducted extensive systematical research on their uses. Beside fauna and flora, Rumphius also wrote about the history of Maluku. In 1670, he was struck blind by glaucoma, but even this would not halt his seminal work in documenting Maluku biology.

Rumphius passed away on June 15, 1702. He is buried at his house yard. A monument was erected on the corner of jalan Pattimura, Ambon island, to commemorate his great work.


Cloves (Eugenia aromatica), now common throughout the world's supermarkets, were once found only on select Maluku isles. The warm, sweet scent of these dried flower buds, and their power to preserve and revive stored meat in the days before refrigeration, inspired thousands of Chinese, Arabian and European sailors to undertake perilous voyages. Many of these voyages, including Magellan's first global circumnavigation, spawned additional important discoveries.

Cloves are important not only as food flavorings. To the present day, clove oil is distilled and used as medicine for toothaches and stomach ailments. Cloves are also blended with tobacco to create the distinctively sweet Indonesian clove cigarettes. What could be more refreshing on your stroll through the Maluku rain forest than to crush a handful a fresh clove leaves and take in their warm, zesty aroma?


Like cloves, nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) is a spice of great worldwide demand native only to Maluku. Banda Island, with its rich, volcanic soils carpeted in nutmeg trees, was once a near-fabled destination for daring merchant sailors. Oddly, local harvesters first found little use for this crop, and were often quite puzzled by what all the fuss was about.

Surrounding the nutmeg "nut" or seed, the red, waxy aril, known as mace, is actually more potent and valuable than nutmeg itself. The nutmeg tree, a sun-sensitive tree not unlike coffee, is often grown under the cover of kenari trees. The delicate nuts of kenari are now exported as another sustainably harvested forest crop from many parts of Maluku.


Beautiful wild orchids are found throughout Maluku. The famous natural historian G.E. Rumphius (1627-1702), identified 170 orchid species in the Maluku Islands and surrounding areas.

Phalaenopsis amboinensis, a tiny yellow-green moon orchid with brown spots, is the most world-famous species, native to the Kawa valley, Seram island. Rumphius sent this species to Europe where it was then crossed with other species. Today many award-winning Phalaenopsis cultivars are descendants of this Ambon species.

Another prized Maluku orchid is Dendrobium phalaenopsis, known locally as bunga larat. D. phalaenopsis varies from clear white to grape purple, with nuances between these two colors. In addition, Maluku also boasts Bulophilium orchids, Coloagyne, Vanda celebia, Dendrobium grananatum vandopsis (tiger orchid) and Phaius spp. (the common garden orchid).


As a main food of Maluku, the sago palm (Metroxylon sp) is grown in several locations in Maluku. Years ago, sago was so valuable due to storable for longer times, as well as transportable to other places without worrying about being rotten. "Without Sago, Ambon shall stop functioning" that is what Shirley noted in the book of Ambon: Island of spices. Sago palm is harvested after 15 years. The sago palm is a multipurpose plant. Every part of its tree can be used for the needs of Maluku, such as tree trunk is for house wall or leaves of sago for house roof.


Maluku has variety of fauna; even numbers of them are special for this region and cannot be found in others. Especially knowing Maluku is included in Wallacea region, which is the region of the exchange character of flora & fauna in western part of Indonesia (Asia character) with Australian character in Eastern part. It has also various types of fowl, including type of birds, which exist in Maluku.

Out of 402 limited spread bird species in Indonesia. 225 of them or 56% are limited spread birds, live in Wallacea region. And 213 of them can only be found in Wallacea region. In Wallacea region, Maluku is the richest region, which has 116, limited spread bird species with 90 species of them can only be found in Maluku.

From this number of birds among others are: Black-capped lorry (lorious lorry), Greater bird of paradise (paradisaea apoda), King Cockatoo (probosciger-aterima), and Casuary (casuarius). One of the famous types of bird due to its beauty is bird of paradise. With its beauty has made the queen of Spain Marie Christine de Bourbone (circa 1830) to use Bird of paradise on her crown. Assuming that the decreasing numbers of this type of birds were caused by the habit of women to use this bird as a hair decoration during that age.

Last revised on May 20, 2011
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