Pīngao – Ficinia spiralis

In former times, Pīngao would have crowded the shore of every sandy beach from Northland to Stewart Island. The curly golden leaves were highly admired as a weaving material, and were used to make hats, bags, mats, headbands, belts and raincapes. South Island Māori were even known to make body armour with the leaves that was worn into battle. Pīngao was such an important part of the … Continue reading Pīngao – Ficinia spiralis

Pukatea – Laurelia novae-zelandiae

Pukatea rises from wet and swampy ground to tower amongst the giants of the forest. To achieve this amazing feat, it builds itself walled buttress roots that help prop it up in soggy soil and keep it from falling over. In very wet conditions, it will even grow pneumatophores – small snorkel-like structures on its roots that help them breathe underwater. The bark of Pukatea contains a powerful … Continue reading Pukatea – Laurelia novae-zelandiae

Māpou – Myrsine australis

Māpou is a tough little tree. It manages to thrive just about anywhere, colonising bare ground as well as the understory of dense forests. It’s also able to cope with browsing from the hoardes of introduced mammals that plague New Zealand forests, as it has unpalatable leaves that sheep and cattle tend to avoid. Even Brushtail Possums don’t seem to like the taste, and will seek out other plants … Continue reading Māpou – Myrsine australis

Megaherbs of the Subantarctic Islands

Far below the New Zealand mainland, through the lashing winds and crashing waves, lie the Subantarctic islands – a series of remote, rocky outcrops scattered across the South Pacific. At first glance, its hard to think of a more hostile place for plants to grow. The islands are battered by towering waves and torn apart by gale force winds, with only a tiny amount of sunshine … Continue reading Megaherbs of the Subantarctic Islands

Mangemange – Lygodium articulatum

At first glance the thin wiry stems of Mangemange look easy to break, but they are actually incredibly strong. Many trampers find themselves strung up by the plant, struggling in vain to break free. Māori believed these tough wiry stems were so durable they could last a hundred years, and found a number of ingenious uses for them. Mangemange stems were made into rope, thatching, fish … Continue reading Mangemange – Lygodium articulatum

Hangehange – Geniostoma ligustrifolium

The shiny lettuce green leaves of Hangehange are a common sight in New Zealand forests and bush fragments. These soft fleshy leaves can be distinguished from other plants by a distinctive “drip tip”, an elongated point at the end of the leaf that allows rain to run off. Hangehange leaves were used as a flavouring in Māori cuisine. The roots of kumara and cabbage tree … Continue reading Hangehange – Geniostoma ligustrifolium

Kahakaha – Astelia hastatum

Kahakaha or Perching Lily is an epiphytic plant found nesting in the canopy. In some places it grows so densely that it forms an aerial garden, suspended amongst the tree tops. Early European bushmen called the plant Widow Maker as the plants often fell to the ground when they were milling native timber. Sometimes the weight of the plants could snap branches, threatening to crush unsuspecting victims below. The … Continue reading Kahakaha – Astelia hastatum