Māori Plant Use

   Skip Navigation Links
Copyright © 2021

Plant Use Details 

Agathis australis. Kauri. Main reference.
FAMILY: Araucariaceae
BOTANICAL NAME: Agathis australis
Sapling: koare.
Resin: kāpia, ware
MEDICINAL: Gum scraped to powder, applied with olive oil to burns (Adams 1945).
Fresh gum resin chewed as masticatory (Colenso 1869a, 1869b; Kirk, in Taylor, 1870; Taylor 1855; others).

Related pharmacology in Brooker, Cambie and Cooper 1987
See Riley 1994 for information on medicinal uses of related plants elsewhere in the world.
DYES: Soot used in making blue dye for tattooing (Bell 1890).
Kauri resin, kāpia, used in burning for soot for tattooing. Process described (Colenso 1892b; Taylor 1855) Used to make black paint.
DOMESTIC: Wallace 1989 found 59 fernroot beaters, 4 mauls, 5 aute beaters, and 2 weapons made from branch heartwood of kauri, among museum artefacts he tested. Also a ko, 2 hoto, 4 wakahuia from timber.
CONSTRUCTION: Timber tree - boats, houses, cabinetmaking. (N.B. - Extensive details on colonial timber uses and on kauri gum trade generally not part of this database).
Resin, building qualities lauded by Nicholas 1817. Used in house timbers, carvings.
FISHING AND HUNTING: Used for canoes by Māori north of Thames (Colenso 1869a).
Among Ngapuhi, soot collected from burning heartwood of kauri or rimu, mixed with shark oil and used for painting canoes (Best 1925).
Kauri resin burnt to attract eels and other fish.(Servant 1973)
CHEMISTRY: Chemical constituents (resins, essential oils) listed in Cambie 1976, 1988 with many references.
PROVERBS: 'Puritia to ngarahu kauri! Keep (to thyself) thy kauri-resin soot!
This saying was used when a person was unwillling to give what was asked, the same being some common thing and not at all needed by the owner.

Soot from burning kauri-resin...was carefully collected in a very peculiar manner and ony by much pains, and buried in the earth placed in a hollowed soft-stone, where it was kept for years, and said to improve in quality by age; it was used as a black pigment in tattooing. But there is a double meaning here, viz.: You may never require it, or live to use it!' (Colenso 1880: 144)