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

Hangehange – Geniostoma ligustrifolium

The shiny lettuce green leaves of Hangehange are a common sight in New Zealand forests and bush fragments. These soft fleshy leaves can be distinguished from other plants by a distinctive “drip tip”, an elongated point at the end of the leaf that allows rain to run off. Hangehange leaves were used as a flavouring in Māori cuisine. The roots of kumara and cabbage tree … Continue reading Hangehange – Geniostoma ligustrifolium

Kahakaha – Astelia hastatum

Kahakaha or Perching Lily is an epiphytic plant found nesting in the canopy. In some places it grows so densely that it forms an aerial garden, suspended amongst the tree tops. Early European bushmen called the plant Widow Maker as the plants often fell to the ground when they were milling native timber. Sometimes the weight of the plants could snap branches, threatening to crush unsuspecting victims below. The … Continue reading Kahakaha – Astelia hastatum

Lemonwood – Pittosporum eugenioides

Crush the leaves of Lemonwood in your hands, and you will immediately understand how the plant got its name. The leaves and bark have an undeniable and delicious lemony-aroma. This sweet-smelling plant captured the attention of Māori who used it to make perfume and hair oils.  The gummy resin that oozes from the bark was mixed with bird fat and the oil of Tītoki and Kōhia … Continue reading Lemonwood – Pittosporum eugenioides

A Guide to Native New Zealand Tea Plants

Many plants in the New Zealand bush make excellent tea. Māori have been brewing plant teas for centuries, and have an extensive knowledge of the best brews and herbal remedies. European settlers also experimented with a wide range of native teas, searching for native substitutes to replace the Earl Grey and English Breakfast they had left behind. In this section I have compiled all the … Continue reading A Guide to Native New Zealand Tea Plants