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 strong flexible timber that has been fashioned into violins, waka, wheels and railway carraiges. It was even used to construct the top floor of the Beehive – New Zealand’s parliamentary building.
Māori midwives used Mangeao to assist with childbirth. The pregnant mother was placed in a warm bath to which the leaves of Mangeao, Bush Lawyer and Tree fuschia were added. The vapours released were thought to help ease childbirth and the removal of the placenta.