Māori Plant Use

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Plant Use Details 

Kunzea spp. Kānuka. Main reference.
FAMILY: Myrtaceae Myrtle family
BOTANICAL NAME: Kunzea spp. especially K. robusta, K. ericoides
PREVIOUS NAMES: Leptospermum ericoides
MĀORI NAME: KĀNUKA, MĀNUKA; kōpuka, mānuka-rauriki, mārū (East Coast. Kirk 1889), rawiri (Taylor 1870, Conservator State Forests 1877, Nga Puhi name - in de Lange 2014, 112), and variants rauwiri, rauiri ; toa mānuka (See Best 1942); kahikātoa (Best 1942); manuea, manuoea (Nelson area. Recorded by Richard 1832. See de Lange 2014, 47); makahikatoa ('white kahikatoa'). Central North Island name for K. serotina (W. Kawhaki in de Lange 2014, 61)
COMMON NAME: white tea tree; white manuka; small-leaved manuka Taylor 1870
NOTES: See also notes under mānuka. Although the name kānuka is in common use today in reference to these species, the name mānuka was more frequently used in earlier records. Mānuka is still commonly used by Māori elders in the northern North Island (see, for instance, the discussion by de Lange 2014, 174-175)
MEDICINAL: Twelve even-sized pieces of bark are boiled until the water is dark; decoction drunk for diarrhoea and dysentery (Best 1906, 1908).
Bark of manono, Coprosma australis, and tips of white mānuka (kānuka) boiled together and used externally for venereal disease (M. Stevens, Hicks Bay, 1941)

See Riley 1994 for information on medicinal uses of related plants elsewhere in the world.
DOMESTIC: Wallace 1989 examined museum artefacts made of kānuka. He found 5 fernroot beaters, a maul, 15 paddles, an adze socket, weapons, an eel club, 19 spades and 25 kō, a ketu and a hoto.
CONSTRUCTION: Of value for marine piles (State Conservator of Forests 1877)
FISHING AND HUNTING: ''The spear-maker who used manuka as a material fashioned his implement from the species known to our scientists as Leptospermum ericoides, the 'white manuka' of ordinary nomenclature, the other species not being suitable for the purpose. .... under favourable conditions [it will] develop a straight-barrelled, straight-grained and comely trunk that lends itself to free riving. ... These spears were more rigid than those fashioned from tawa, and so easier to manipulate. Wairarapa natives informed me that their elders preferred it on that account, and also on account of it being less liable to break... '' (Best 1942)
Long poles of sharpened kānuka used in making of eel weirs. (Makereti 1938)
CHEMISTRY: 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)
PASTIME: Wallace 1989 found a spinning top made of kānuka among museum artefacts he tested.
SCENT: Fragrant leaves used to scent oil (Best 1908)