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

Metrosideros – Pioneers of the Pacific

The Metrosideros genus contains around 50 species and is one of the most widely distributed plants in the Pacific. The subgenus Mearnsia contains the shrubs, creepers and climbers and includes New Zealand species such as White and Scarlet Rata. It is generally only found on fragments of the old Gondwanan landmass: New Zealand, New Caledonia and New Guinea. The subgenus Metrosideros contains trees such as … Continue reading Metrosideros – Pioneers of the Pacific

Karaka – Corynocarpus laevigatus

Culture & History The most striking feature of the Karaka tree are it’s large orange berries; and the word Karaka in Māori means “to be orange”. The raw kernels of these berries carry the toxin Karakin, which is highly poisonous. Humans who consume the kernels convulse in violent spasms that leave them physically distorted and paralyzed. Māori treatment for Karaka poisoning was to gag the … Continue reading Karaka – Corynocarpus laevigatus

Kōwhai – Sophora spp.

Culture & History The typical native flower is pale, white and inconspicuous. Little wonder then, that the flashy yellow blooms of the Kōwhai have become ingrained in the New Zealand consciousness. They hold unofficial status as our national flower, are a common icon of artwork and nationhood, and depictions of Kōwhai have been used on postage stamps and coins. Kōwhai is the Māori word for yellow, and … Continue reading Kōwhai – Sophora spp.

A Land Without Teeth

  The Death of the Dinosaurs When New Zealand first began to rift away from Gondwana, dinosaurs still walked amongst the shade of giant conifers, the ocean was ruled by vicious marine reptiles and the skies were dominated by flying pterosaurs. But around 65 million years ago a meteorite roughly 10 kilometres wide crashed into the Yucatan peninsula. The shockwave, the ensuing tsunamis and firestorms, … Continue reading A Land Without Teeth

Charles Darwin – Part 2

Developing The Theory When Darwin returned from his voyage on the HMS Beagle he became an instant scientific celebrity, with his various collections of rocks, fossils and zoological specimens earning him acceptance into the scientific establishment. He began writing papers, mainly on geological topics, and conversing with leading scientists of the day. As Darwin published accounts of his voyages and analyses of his various finds, he began … Continue reading Charles Darwin – Part 2

Charles Darwin – Part 1

When Charles Darwin arrived in New Zealand in December of 1835, he was near the end of his legendary round-the-world voyage aboard the HMS Beagle. The trip turned out to be monumentally important; not only for Darwin who described it as “by far the most important event in my life, and has determined my whole career”,  but also for the world as it provided him … Continue reading Charles Darwin – Part 1

The Story of New Zealand

  Gondwanan Heritage Gondwana was a large southern hemisphere super-continent that could essentially be thought of as the birthplace of New Zealand. It was composed of the modern day landmasses of Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, India, Madagascar and New Zealand and existed as an entity for hundreds of millions of years before being rifted apart by volcanic activity under the earth’s crust. Many species of extinct and extant plants … Continue reading The Story of New Zealand