Te rākau o te wiki
Te rākau o te wiki series is being implemented to share knowledge and fun facts about Aotearoa's native tree's and plants. The goal is to help people learn more about the unique flora and fauna of New Zealand, and to encourage a deeper appreciation of the country’s natural heritage.
By highlighting a different native species each week, we hope to inspire people to explore the natural world around them and to learn more about the fascinating creatures that call New Zealand home. We believe that by sharing these stories, we can help to foster a greater sense of connection and understanding between people and the natural world, and to promote a more sustainable and harmonious relationship with the environment
Māpou, scientifically known as Myrsine Australis, grows up to 6 meters tall and has a very hard wood that was used by tangata whenua as handles, digging sticks, and wooden axes.
The leaves of the red mapou are light green, speckled with red and reddish margins, and have a wavy edge. The young branches are also reddish, giving the plant an attractive overall appearance.
The plant produces small black fruit in summer, which are popular with birds.
Our ancestors were known to have boiled the leaves to make tea for toothaches. Leaves can also be used as relief for arthritic problems, a remedy for skin disease, intestinal worms, and as a general tonic.
In traditional Māori world view, plants and animals are rich in meaning. The diverse heights, girths and other features of trees suggested the variety of human dimensions. Children were and are still named after trees, plants and birds, and people’s characters were likened to features of the forest.
Which brings us to the Tī kōuka aka Cabbage Tree, Cordyline australis, which often grows alone, symbolizing stoic independence. It was sometimes called tī-tahi – the lone cabbage tree. It serves a practical purpose by being great for reforesting and stabilizing riparian banks. Its hardy nature and adaptability make it a popular choice for those looking to incorporate native flora into their environment.
Known as one of the world’s mightiest trees, growing to over 50 meters tall, with trunk girths up to 16 meters, and living for over 2,000 years. Kauri forests once covered 1.2 million hectares from the Far North to Te Kauri, near Kawhia and were common when the first people arrived around 1,000 years ago.
But here's something you may not have heard. The story of the tohorā and the kauri, places trees and whales in their environments.
"The tohorā asked the kauri to return with him to the sea, but the kauri preferred the land. Tohorā then suggested they exchange skins, which they did. This is why the bark of the kauri is so thin, and as full of resin as the whale is of oil."
Melicytus ramiflorus also known as Mahoe, was one of the woods that Māori would utilize to create fire. The Maori made his fire by friction, and used te hika ahi, the fire plough, to get his fire. Two pieces of wood which had been thoroughly dried were used.
In Māori legend, it is said that Mahoe is one of the trees in which the fire goddess, Mahuika, hid fire. It was used to make fire by friction, by rubbing it with a piece of kaikomako wood.
Pōhutukawa, also known as Metrosideros excelsa, is a tree native to Aotearoa and is renowned for its vibrant color and ability to survive even perched on rocky, precarious cliffs. It has found an important place in kiwi culture for its strength and beauty, and is regarded as a rākau rangatira (chiefly tree).
For Māori our relationship with pōhutukawa is centuries-old, this special tree is a symbol of tenacity and wisdom, as well as a source of Māori medicine and many other practical uses. Most importantly, pōhutukawa is best known to us as our very own Christmas tree
Mānuka aka Leptospermum scoparium, is known around the world for its incredible honey that is produced by bees that pollinate the radiant mānuka flowers. The honey is known for its antibacterial properties and is used in wound dressings, cosmetics, and food.
Fun fact: The crew of Captain Cook’s ship drank a tea made from leptospermum leaves to ward off scurvy during long voyages, hence the common name “tea tree
A unique and ancient plant species in Aotearoa. Harakeke aka Flax was the most important fiber plant to Māori. Each pā or marae typically had a ‘pā harakeke’, or flax plantation. Different varieties were specially grown for their strength, softness, color, and fiber content. The uses of the flax fiber were numerous and varied. Clothing, mats, plates, baskets, ropes, bird snares, lashings, fishing lines, and nets were all made from flax leaves.
Fun fact: Harakeke symbolises the family and the cycle of life. The flax bush represents the family – the new leaf at its centre is the child, and larger leaves on the outside are older relatives
Schefflera digitata, also known as Patete, Sevenfinger, or Umbrella tree, is a tree endemic to Aotearoa.
Patete is a small, spreading tree up to 8 meters high with stout branches. The dark violet fruits are fleshy, round, and grooved when dry. Fun fact: The sap of the tree has medicinal uses and has been used to treat ringworm and sores on the skin. Patete is the most common host of the parasitic plant Dactylanthus taylori, which is a root parasite known as pua-o-te-reinga, ‘the flower of the underworld’.