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

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

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

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

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