Photographer:Tony Wills, 2-Nov-07

Tree Fuchsia – Fuchsia excorticata

When it comes to New Zealand’s native plants, Tree Fuschia is something of a botanical oddball. Most native plants produce small inconspicuous flowers, whereas Fuschia erupts with a dazzling display of purple flowers with bizarre blue pollen. Most native plants will keep their leaves year round, but Tree Fuschia not only drops its leaves but sheds its bark as well, leaving a skeleton of ragged branches. Its … Continue reading Tree Fuchsia – Fuchsia excorticata


Mangeao – Litsea calicaris

Mangeao often served a dark purpose in Māori culture.  Those skilled in witchcraft would use twigs of Mangeao in their rituals, calling down evil spirits to curse their enemies. To lift the curse, a powerful healer was required to exorcise the demons and send them back into the Mangeao branches. Despite its sometimes troubling use – Mangeao has proved itself an important and useful plant. It has a … Continue reading Mangeao – Litsea calicaris


Celery Pine – Phyllocladus trichomanioides

The Maori name for Celery pine is Tānekaha “Strong Man” and its an incredibly apt description. Celery pine possesses one of the strongest native timbers, and it was used extensively by both Māori and Europeans for any task that required strength and durability. Europeans used Celery pine in houses, decks, bridges, railways, and as props to hold open gold and coal mines. Māori found a myriad … Continue reading Celery Pine – Phyllocladus trichomanioides


Māori & Mushrooms: Fungi in Aotearoa

The Forgotten Kingdom We often think about Plants and Fungi together, but in truth Fungi are more closely related to humans than plants. They belong to their own separate kingdom containing millions of species, vastly outnumbering plants. Not only that, but the part of the fungi we are most familiar with – the toadstool or mushroom – is just the tip of the iceberg. Most … Continue reading Māori & Mushrooms: Fungi in Aotearoa


Native Bush Tea

Many plants in the New Zealand bush make excellent tea. Māori have been brewing plant teas for centuries, and have an extensive knowledge of the best brews and herbal remedies. European settlers also experimented with a wide range of native teas, searching for native substitutes to replace the Earl Grey and English Breakfast they had left behind. In this section I have compiled all the … Continue reading Native Bush Tea


Wharangi – Melicope ternata

Wharangi belongs to the citrus family, and its leaves are studded with oil glands. When the leaves are crushed, they produce a familiar lemony-orange scent. Māori would chew the gum of Wharangi as a cure for bad breath, as it sweetens and refreshes the mouth. The gum would also be used to produce sweet smelling hair oils and perfumes. There are conflicting reports about its … Continue reading Wharangi – Melicope ternata


Bush Lawyer – Rubus cissoides

  Bush lawyer – Tataramoa – is New Zealand’s answer to blackberry, a scrambling thorny climber studded with sharp backwards-curved hooks. Unlike blackberry however, Bush Lawyer can be found in the middle of the forest, snaring unsuspecting trampers in dense spiky tangles. Once it grabs hold of you, it’s unlikely to let go – presumably the rationale behind its curious English name. Despite the anguish … Continue reading Bush Lawyer – Rubus cissoides