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 hooks and eel traps. The stems are so strong they were even used to saw Pounamu in half.
Mangemange was known to Pākehā as “Bushman’s Mattress”. Early Pākehā travellers observed how Māori would make beds out of the corkscrew coils of the Mangemange vine, and emulated them, stuffing the coils into a sack to make a rough bed for the night. The leaves of Mangemange were useful as well. The fronds were infused in water and drunk to soothe stomach ache, and when dried out they give a pleasant aroma and were used as a type of diaper.
Image Credits: Robert Vennell