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
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
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
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.
History & Culture In the early Miocene (around 23 million years ago) New Zealand had a much warmer climate and contained distinctive tropical elements in its flora. Palms were common at this time, and even included species of Coconut – such as the small fruited Cocos zeylanica. As a result of glaciation and cooling, these species have been removed from the landscape, with only one … Continue reading Nīkau – Rhopalostylis sapida