Pōhutukawa – Metrosideros excelsa

History & Culture Today, New Zealand’s plant life is widely admired and readily adopted as symbols of our identity and culture. But for many of the early European settlers first setting foot on New Zealand, the forest was viewed in a hostile, fearful manner.  Exchanging manicured fields and rolling pastures for a land covered in dense, rugged, unfamiliar forest; it is not surprising that many … Continue reading Pōhutukawa – Metrosideros excelsa

Taraire – Beilschmiedia tarairi

The easiest way to identify taraire is to listen for the crunch of its leathery leaves under your feet.  The large, green leaves are very slow to rot, and over time will build up in a thick, crunchy blanket on the forest floor. This leaf-layer smothers out many other seedlings and plants, leaving the forest open and easy to navigate on foot. The other remarkable feature … Continue reading Taraire – Beilschmiedia tarairi

Mahoe – Melicytus ramiflorus

One of the easiest ways to tell whether you are looking at mahoe is to look at the leaf litter on the forest floor. The decaying leaves form characteristic skeleton leaves, as the leaf matter dies away and leaves only the architecture of the veins. Often piles of these dead skeleton leaves build up around the base of the tree. Another interesting feature of the … Continue reading Mahoe – Melicytus ramiflorus

Kūmarahou – Pomaderris kumeraho

For most of the year kūmarahou is a rather unremarkable looking plant, hiding in plain sight with its dull-green velvety leaves. In late spring however, the plant bursts forth with clusters of creamy-yellow flowers – colouring the landscape in sunny blossoms. For Māori this was the signal that it was time to plant kūmara. The English name – Gumdigger’s soap – comes from it’s use on the … Continue reading Kūmarahou – Pomaderris kumeraho

Kawakawa – Piper excelsum

For the early Polynesian explorers, the first glimpse of the New Zealand coastline must have been a staggering and bewildering sight. A vast, cold and mountainous landscape, populated with a bizarre assortment of plants unlike anything they had ever seen. In the midst of this unfamiliar forest, the heart-shaped leaves of Kawakawa would have been a welcome sight. The plant bears a striking resemblance to … Continue reading Kawakawa – Piper excelsum

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