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

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

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

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.