Tree Fuchsia – Fuchsia excorticata

When it comes to New Zealand’s native plants, Tree Fuschia is something of a botanical oddball. Most native plants produce small inconspicuous flowers, whereas Fuschia erupts with a dazzling display of purple flowers with bizarre blue pollen. Most native plants will keep their leaves year round, but Tree Fuschia not only drops its leaves but sheds its bark as well, leaving a skeleton of ragged branches. Its … Continue reading Tree Fuchsia – Fuchsia excorticata

Mangeao – Litsea calicaris

Mangeao often served a dark purpose in Māori culture.  Those skilled in witchcraft would use twigs of Mangeao in their rituals, calling down evil spirits to curse their enemies. To lift the curse, a powerful healer was required to exorcise the demons and send them back into the Mangeao branches. Despite its sometimes troubling use – Mangeao has proved itself an important and useful plant. It has a … Continue reading Mangeao – Litsea calicaris

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

Māori & Mushrooms: Fungi in Aotearoa

The Forgotten Kingdom We often think about Plants and Fungi together, but in truth Fungi are more closely related to humans than plants. They belong to their own separate kingdom containing millions of species, vastly outnumbering plants. Not only that, but the part of the fungi we are most familiar with – the toadstool or mushroom – is just the tip of the iceberg. Most … Continue reading Māori & Mushrooms: Fungi in Aotearoa

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

Tawa – Beilschimedia tawa

History & Culture The long willow-like branches of Tawa have stolen the lives of many Kererū in their time. Māori hunters would climb great trees, carrying with them immense Tawa lances – sometimes greater than 10 metres long. Slowly, carefully, they would inch the lances closer and closer to their prey until at the final moment they would the thrust them through the heart of … Continue reading Tawa – Beilschimedia tawa

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