Kūmarahou – Pomaderris kumerahou

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 kumerahou

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

Pukatea – Laurelia novae-zelandiae

Pukatea rises from wet and swampy ground to tower amongst the giants of the forest. To achieve this amazing feat, it builds itself walled buttress roots that help prop it up in soggy soil and keep it from falling over. In very wet conditions, it will even grow pneumatophores – small snorkel-like structures on its roots that help them breathe underwater. The bark of Pukatea contains a powerful … Continue reading Pukatea – Laurelia novae-zelandiae

Ngaio – Myoporum laetum

Hold the leaves of Ngaio up to the light and you will see it is studded with oil glands. These glands are packed full of the toxin Ngaione, which kills its victims by shutting down the liver. Many horses, cattle, sheep and pigs have suffered this unfortunate fate after grazing on Ngaio leaves. However, the toxic oil is not without its uses and Māori discovered that by … Continue reading Ngaio – Myoporum laetum

Nīkau – Rhopalostylis sapida

History & Culture In the early Miocene (around 23 million years ago) New Zealand had a much warmer climate and contained distinctive tropical elements in its flora. Palms were common at this time, and even included species of Coconut – such as the small fruited Cocos zeylanica. Perhaps as a result of glaciation and cooling, these species have been removed from the landscape, with only … Continue reading Nīkau – Rhopalostylis sapida