Māori Plant Use

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Plant Use Details 

Aciphylla spp. Taramea. Papaī. Speargrass. Main reference.
FAMILY: Umbelliferae Carrot family
BOTANICAL NAME: Aciphylla species. Aciphylla squarrosa, Aciphylla colensoi
PREVIOUS NAMES: Ligusticum aciphylla (Taylor 1855)
MĀORI NAME: Whole plant: TARAMEA, papaī, karamea, tākahikahi (Best 1908), kueo, kurikuri. papaki (Taylor 1855),
Mature form: tūmatakuru (Tuhoe). kuweo,
Young root: papaī.
Gum: ware-o-te-taramea (Beattie).
Prepared scent: kākaramea.
COMMON NAME: Bayonette-grass (Lindsay 1868) ; Bloody-Spaniard; Spaniard; speargrass; Wild Irishman Taylor 1855
NOTES: In Lindsay 1868:
A. squarrosa = taramea
A. colensoi = ''The Papaii of the North Island Maoris (Colenso); the Kuri-kuri of those of the South Island (Lyall)''
MEDICINAL: Possible diuretic (Neil 1889)
FOOD: Tender shoot and root both eaten. Taylor 1847.
Edible tap-root, somewhat like a carrot (Taylor 1855 ; calls plant Ligusticum aciphylla).
Aromatic roots and shoots eaten (Kirk, in Taylor 1870; Colenso 1869a).
Young, carrot-like roots used as 'meagre food supply'. Often pulled up forcibly with a rope. Roots of plants that have not yet flowered sought as food (Best 1942).
FIBRE: A kind of sandal and galligaskin (half-legging) combined made by a netting process from the plant. Called 'tūmatakuru'. They were folded over the foot and above the ankle and laced on, being stuffed or lined with rimurimu (moss). Used by Tūhoe, usually for traversing snow-clad ranges in winter. (Best 1899, 1908)
CONSTRUCTION: Sometimes used for binding soil when making ramparts (Best 1927).
SCENT: 'A variety of the taramea is found on the Ruahine and the Kaikoura mountains, which produces a resinous balsamic substance, highly aromatic' (Taylor 1855)
Plant exudes a sort of gum on its long, stiff and pointed leaves - used as an ingredient in scent for chiefs' clothing. 'To make this compound of scents, the aromatic fern called 'mokimoki,' with the gum obtained from the ta-rata, and the kopuru moss (which is obtained from humid rocks in the most dense part of the forests), with the fragrant flowers and roots of the pa-to-tara, and the fragrant grass called ka-retu, and the plant hioi, are mixed into a compound with the gum of the tara-mea and oil of the miro, and subjected to heat for days, until the roots and herbs are softened, when it is strained through a layer of the flowers of the ka-kaho bloom.' (Brett's Guide 1883).
Gum provides 'choicest and rarest scent'. Difficult to collect. Steamed until gummy excretion expressed. Process described (Colenso 1892b ; 1869a).
Shortland describes how scent obtained by holding leaves over fire till an oil exudes, which is collected in the bottom of a dry gourd. Highly prized. Used for gifts to North island tribes. (Shortland 1851).
Put a fire under a big bunch of taramea and the heat draws the gum out (Te Paro to Beattie, MS 582/E/11, Hocken).
There is a toroku grub which attacks the taramea and the gum runs in the centre. It is like resin and sometimes takes too long to collect so to hurry it 'tahu te taramea' by putting tussock or dry vegetation on top and light or burn on top. The heat draws the hinu or oil out of it and this gum is a kakara (scent). Next morning the gum is collected by the girls. During the night they must sleep doubled up (moe-tuturika or koromeke) for if they slept moe-wharoro (straightened out) the gum would not run correctly, but would run off all streaks down the plant instead of collecting in balls at the top. Such is the time-honoured traditional procedure to ensure success and good perfume (Mrs Wetere to Beattie, MS 582/E/11, Hocken).
TRADITIONS: Reference to collecting scent from taramea in story of weka hunters (Beattie 1920).
Features as one of the prickly plants in Tama's search for his wife. She was kept behind a prickly palisade by the man she eloped with. He brought them from Hawaiiki as there were no prickly plants in New Zealand then (Anderson 1954).
Similar tradition related by Hone Taare Tikao, Rāpaki chief, to Beattie. MS 582/I/17 Hocken Archives, Dunedin.