Māori Plant Use

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Plant Use Details 

Leptospermum scoparium. Mānuka. Kahikatoa. Main reference.
FAMILY: Myrtaceae Myrtle family
BOTANICAL NAME: Leptospermum scoparium
MĀORI NAME: MĀNUKA, KAHIKĀTOA; kātoa, pata, rauwiri, rauiri; taramānuka (some Maori say this manuka is the female tree. (Best 1908). See kanuka.
Sugary, resinous exudation: pia-mānuka
Outer bark: kiri amoko
COMMON NAME: red mānuka; tea tree
MEDICINAL: Astringent infusion 'particularly serviceable to persons in a reduced state whose previous moralities would not admit of the strictest investigation' Urinary complaints, 'kakatoa' leaves used - possibly refers to mānuka leaves. (Polack 1840).
Leaves- infusion drunk for internal complaints; steam bath (Taylor 1848 and 1870).
Refreshing tea, emetic when strong (Kirk, in Taylor 1870, 1889)
Gum is emollient for burns, scalds. Given to constipated babies. Adults take to ease coughing. Use bark in a decoction for diarrhoea, dysentery. Infusion used externally and internally as a sedative. Boiled with kōwhai, mixed with woodash, dried, used for skin disease, dandruff (Goldie 1905 ; Best 1906 ; Brett's Guide 1883).
Decoction of leaves used as a febrifuge. Inner barks of mānuka and tōtara boiled, liquid bottled, kept for week till sweetish, used as febrifuge (Bell 1890; Brett's Guide 1883).
Bark used to set fractured limbs (Best 1903b, 1906).
Raw mānuka berries chewed for colic, 6-8 berries every 10 minutes till pain subsides (Poverty Bay Federation of Women's Institutes Cookery Calendar, mid 1930s?).
Capsules boiled, liquid used for diarrhoea (Baber 1887; W. Walker, Opotiki, 1941).
Get some kahikātoa bark, scrape off the rough outside bark, put the inner bark into a billy with some water and boil it for about 15 minutes, until the colour is a dark brown. Used as a mouth wash. Let the liquid cool, dip a clean cloth into it, and rub out the mouth. Use as a gargle. (P. Smith 1940).
Mānuka capsules chewed for dysentery (H. Kahaki 1941)
Use for stomach disorders recorded in Wall, Cranwell 1943.
Sap drained from tree trunk, juice taken internally as a blood and breath purifier. Leaves infused, inhalant for colds. Leaves and bark boiled, fluid applied for pain relief as in a stiff back. Seed capsules boiled, fluid used externally to reduce inflammation e.g. in congestion of the breast. Young shoots chewed, swallowed for dysentery and allied troubles (Adams 1945).
Seedpods chewed for diarrhoea (Te Rangi Hiroa 1949).
Seedpods boiled required amount until water reddish. Used for dysentery (Collier 1959).
Infusion containing kohekohe bark, manakura bark Melicytus micranthus, puawānanga vine Clematis paniculata, korare stalk, kahikātoa leaves taken 3x daily before meals for female haemorrhage, bleeding piles, general blood disorders, kidney troubles and skin eruptions. (Anon; Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Botany Division file 22/15 of 8/1/59, National Archives).
Mānuka leaves boiled and rubbed on itch or scab (titi). 'The people now say such a cure would poison you' (Mrs Te Au to Beattie, MS 582/E/11, Hocken Library)
FOOD: 'The leaves of this shrub are a very common substitute for tea. It produces a saccharine substance like manna called Pia and Tohika, which is eaten. (Taylor 1847)
Leaves a refreshing tea. Emetic when strong (Kirk, in Taylor 1870, 1889)
'... a good substitute for tea... will obviate the necessity of the settlers ever depending on China for its boasted herb' (New Zealand Journal 1842, quoted in Best 1942).
Shortland talks of a tea, an infusion of mānuka boughs...'much drunk by whalers'. Used by Captain Cook as a tea substitute on his first voyage and, on his second voyage, combined with rimu to make a spruce beer. Anti-scorbutic (Shortland 1851).
Pia (mānuka manna) eaten (Kirk, in Taylor 1870; Colenso 1869a; Best 1903, 1942).
Valuable honey-yielding plant (Kirk 1889).
DOMESTIC: Husbandry implements, firewood, brooms, combs (Colenso 1869a, 1869b ; Best 1925).
Shortland slept on a bed of slender mānuka branches on his southern journey 1843-1844. '...soft and fragrant. I never had a better' (Shortland 1851).
Trunks of trees in light bush often straight-boled and straight grained - therefore valued for making implements. Hard and strong. Bark used for domestic vessels ((Best 1942).
Bark used to make rough rain cape (Brunner, 1848 quoted in Best 1942).
Children's ears were pierced when they were quite small with a sharp thin pointed mānuka needle, bent into a V-shape, with several thicknesses of muka fibre in it. 'The sharp ends of the mānuka are placed together, and pushed through the ear with the muka fibre. The pierced ear lobes are bathed every day, and the fibre moved from side to side, and as the ear heals, pulled backwards and forwards. In a few weeks, the ear is ready for a whakakai or ear ornament. Children usually only had the muka fibre until they were grown up...' (Makereti 1938)
Wallace 1989 found a bowl, 6 fernroot beaters, 3 mauls, 14 paddles, 4 weapons, an eel club and composite spade shaft, 15 ketu, 48 kō and 9 hoto made of mānuka among museum artefacts he tested.
CONSTRUCTION: Timber tree - cabinet making, turning, fence rails. Bark used for inferior roofing; long, straight young trees for house battens (Colenso 1869a, 1869b).
Roofing of storage pits, beams of storage houses. Large trees sometimes used in constructing elevated storage platforms (komanga, timanga) (Best 1916).
Mānuka bark valued as roofing material in high-lying districts where tōtara scarce or absent. Very durable (Best 1942, 1908).
Used to bind soil when making ramparts.(Best 1927).
'Wanaka Weka said that when he was a boy at Moeraki there were still two or three round houses made of mānuka' (Beattie MS582/E/11, Hocken).
FISHING AND HUNTING: Canoe paddles, spears (fish and war) (Colenso 1869a, 1869b).
Rods of mānuka often used in construction of flooring of canoe. Mānuka brush, or similar material, tied along walls of open sheds to protect a high class canoe from the weather if it was to be stored for some time. (Best 1925). Used to pin together whau logs in construction of rafts used on East Coast. (Tuta Nihoniho, ibid). Used to make a raft for river crossings (Māori informant, quoted by Jameson, ibid).
Bird spears (Beattie 1920). At Riverton, eel pots made of mānuka sticks, bound together with scraped flax (whītau), netting of prepared flax at entrance (Pākehā informant, ibid).
Nooses on mānuka rods used for pigeon snaring (Matthews 1911).
Tarerarera is a rough throwing spear made of mānuka. Sometimes pointed with kātote (kaka ponga), the hard, black fibres of the kaponga (fern tree) which is of a poisonous nature (Best 1902, 241).
Use in making eel-pots and fish hooks described in Best 1903.
Long, tough poles form excellent handles for scoop-nets, bag nets. Poles used to make framework of trap net for kehe fish (Te Rangi Hiroa 1926).
Manuka or supplejack used to make top rim of haokoeaea (whitebait net). Manuka rails used in making of eel weirs. (Makereti 1938)
CHEMISTRY: Essential oil and bark and flower compounds listed in Cambie 1976, 1988 with references.
Pia is composed of mannitol (Cambie & Seelye 1959).
Mānuka contains leptospermone, an anthelmintic, and anti-bacterial triterpene acids have been isolated from the bark (Brooker, Cambie and Cooper 1981)
NZ parakeets observed chewing mānuka and kānuka leaves and using them in preening. Evidence suggests that birds are using the leaves to control both external and internal parasites (Greene 1989)

ENVIRONMENT: Shelter belts for kūmara plantations (Colenso 1881; Best 1925).
PASTIME: Sometimes used to make spears in games. Kite frames. (Best 1925).
SCENT: Crushed leaves soaked in tītoki oil, rubbed into skin for scent (Best 1942).
TRADITIONS: 'Taramanuka is to set a fire through mānuka and when the blackened sticks dry they are hard and jaggy and you cannot get through them. This, and the planting of prickly shrubs to tear mens feet and legs, are work of an evil nature' (Tikao, Rāpaki chief, to Beattie. MS 582/I/17, Hocken Archives, Dunedin).