For many of New Zealand’s indigenous plants, the Māori name is the ‘common’ name, and English names are rarely, if ever, used; think rimu, tōtara, kauri, pōhutukawa, and mamaku.
Other species have both Māori and English names, but it is the latter that is predominant, at least in my experience. Below are some such examples involving common and likely familiar plants.
Because it is Māori Language Week, perhaps you can look out for these plants and put their Māori name to use. How many can you spot (and name in te reo) this week?!
(Common names are hard to define. Some plants have multiple Māori and/or English names, sometimes with regional variation. Not all are recorded in the mainstream literature. I use the A Dictionary of Maori Plant Names by James Beever (1991, Auckland Botanical Society) as my guide to Māori names for plants.)
tī kōuka, cabbage tree, Cordyline australis
whauwhaupaku, five finger, Pseudopanax arboreus
tarata, lemonwood, Pittosporum eugenoides
tawhai, beech, Fuscospora and Lophozonia (was Nothofagus)
porokaiwhiri, pigeonwood, Hedycarya arborea
pāpāuma, broadleaf, Griselinia littoralis
huruhuruwhenua, shining spleenwort, Asplenium oblongifolium
Hello…. I was wondering, what was the local name for what the incomers called Bottle brush?
Kia ora Judy. Are these the bottlebrush plants you’re interested in? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Callistemon While cultivated in New Zealand and occasionally a bit weedy here, these plants are native to Australia.
Wondering if you can help us, we are trying to find the botanical and Maori name for a plant commonly known as Maori Head. Have you heard of it? It apparently grows in Dunedin
Kia ora Karen. I don’t know that name, and I can’t find any reference to it. Apologies also for the slow reply.
Birds eat the fruit of whauwhaupaku, that suggests they are not very poisonous, but the taste is far too strong for me.
Thanks David – you’re experimental proof that humans *can* survive whauwhaupaku fruit.
Good one Leon.
I was interested to learn the name pāpāuma. I’ve always used kāpuka which, as you say, is another Maori name for broadleaf.
Are those berries on the Whauwhaupaku tree edible?
Sorry Paterika – I’m not sure, but I’d suggest caution as a pamphlet produced by Landcare Research (https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/42013/Poisonous_plants_nz.pdf, see page 4, under five finger) says:
“likely to be poisonous to some degree because it belongs tot he ivy family, however, no records of poisoning are available”.