Celery Pine – Phyllocladus trichomanioides

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 … Continue reading Celery Pine – Phyllocladus trichomanioides

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 – Tātaramoa – 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

Whau – Entelea arborescens

Whau is immediately distinctive in the New Zealand forest; with its large floppy heart-shaped leaves and spiky bommy knocker seeds. It produces one of the lightest woods in the world, and as such was a valuable resource for Māori. The seeds and wood could be used as floats for fishing nets and marker buoys. The trunks were also lashed together with supplejack to construct small rafts … Continue reading Whau – Entelea arborescens

Lord of the Trees: The Botany of Middle Earth

For many people around the world, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy put New Zealand on the map. The sweeping panorama shots of snow-topped mountains, remote tussock grasslands and wild untamed forests worked like an extended tourism video, and visitors flocked to the country in record numbers. However with such a huge emphasis on the spectacular scenery there is an important character in the … Continue reading Lord of the Trees: The Botany of Middle Earth

Supplejack – Ripogonum scandens

History & Culture The thick black scrambling vines of Supplejack – Kareao – are a distinctive feature of the New Zealand rainforest. In Māori tradition, the vines grew from the tail of the monstrous eel god – Tunaroa. When Maui’s wife Raukura was gathering water from a stream, Tunaroa knocked her over with his giant tail and insulted her. In revenge, Maui ambushed Tunaroa – … Continue reading Supplejack – Ripogonum scandens

Kiekie – Freycinetia banksii

  History & Culture In Māori tradition, Kiekie and Harakeke are regarded as long lost brothers. Harakeke left home to live with Wainui – the mother of waters – while Kiekie stayed with Tāne – the Lord of the forest – piggy-backing on his shoulders wherever he went. Today, this is where you will most commonly find Kiekie, suspended among the canopy of our mightiest trees. … Continue reading Kiekie – Freycinetia banksii

Tutu – Coriaria arborea

Culture & History Tutu is one of New Zealand’s deadliest plants. Although the fruit is edible, every other part of the plant contains the powerful neurotoxin tutin which attacks the muscular and nervous systems. The plant claimed the lives of many early Māori – especially children- when seeds were accidentally  swallowed along with the fruit.  European settlers also fell victim to the plant, with cases … Continue reading Tutu – Coriaria arborea