Pīngao – Ficinia spiralis

In former times, Pīngao would have crowded the shore of every sandy beach from Northland to Stewart Island. The curly golden leaves were highly admired as a weaving material, and were used to make hats, bags, mats, headbands, belts and raincapes. South Island Māori were even known to make body armour with the leaves that was worn into battle. Pīngao was such an important part of the … Continue reading Pīngao – Ficinia spiralis

Māpou – Myrsine australis

Māpou is a tough little tree. It manages to thrive just about anywhere, colonising bare ground as well as the understory of dense forests. It’s also able to cope with browsing from the hoardes of introduced mammals that plague New Zealand forests, as it has unpalatable leaves that sheep and cattle tend to avoid. Even Brushtail Possums don’t seem to like the taste, and will seek out other plants … Continue reading Māpou – Myrsine australis

Mangemange – Lygodium articulatum

At first glance the thin wiry stems of Mangemange look easy to break, but they are actually incredibly strong. Many trampers find themselves strung up by the plant, struggling in vain to break free. Māori believed these tough wiry stems were so durable they could last a hundred years, and found a number of ingenious uses for them. Mangemange stems were made into rope, thatching, fish … Continue reading Mangemange – Lygodium articulatum

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

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