Māori Plant Use

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Plant Use Details 

Cyathea dealbata. Ponga. Silver fern.
FAMILY: Cyatheaceae
BOTANICAL NAME: Cyathea dealbata
PREVIOUS NAMES: Alsophila tricolor
MĀORI NAME: PONGA, kaponga (sometimes used generically for other tree ferns), poka (southern term; Karetai to Beattie; MS 582/E/11)
hard, black fibres in stem: kātote (Best)
COMMON NAME: ponga; silver fern
MEDICINAL: Pith used to make poultice, skin disease (Taylor 1870 ; Goldie 1905).
Pith used as a poultice for cutaneous eruptions and in cases of eye diseases (Mason 1941)
Related pharmacology in Brooker, Cambie and Cooper 1987.
FOOD: ''''The iho (heart) of the katote [Cyathea smithii] is good to eat, but that of the others [poka and wheki] is bitter. ''(Beattie 1920)

DOMESTIC: Among Tūhoe, adze handles sometimes rendered smooth after manufacture by being rubbed on the rough trunk of the tree-fern (Best 1912).
FISHING AND HUNTING: Tārerarera, rough throwing spears made of mānuka, were sometimes pointed with kātote (kaka ponga), the hard, black fibres of the kaponga, which is of a poisonous nature. 'Some natives talk of bow and arrow'. The bow made of pirita, arrows of fernstalk or a shoot (pihi) of the kaiwhiria, with a point of kātote lashed on. Used by children to kill birds in olden days. Best says sources unreliable (Best 1902). Piece of hard, black substance found in old, dry ponga used as barbs, bound to shaft of spears (Matthews 1911).