The Māori 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 of uses for the plant, crafting it into waka, masts, paddles, bowls, clubs, spears and walking sticks. The tough durable wood made an excellent fishing material. Young twigs were carved into fish hooks and longer branches were used as fishing rods and nets for catching Marblefish.
Not only was Celery pine a useful timber tree, its bark was a rich source of red dye, which was used by Māori in the all-important process of flax weaving. Unsurprisingly, Tānekaha trees were highly valued, particular in areas were they were scarce. In Ruatuhuna, the few large specimens of Celery pine were so highly prized that they had their own names, and only those with direct ancestry to the area were allowed to take bark from them.
The English name – Celery Pine – refers to the strange, leathery leaves which resemble those of celery. In actual fact, these are not leaves at all; they are twigs – Phyllodes – that have been flattened out and packed full of photosynthetic material.
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