Māori Plant Use

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Plant Use Details 

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Typha orientalis. Raupō. Bulrush. Main reference.
FAMILY: Typhaceae Bulrush family
BOTANICAL NAME: Typha orientalis
PREVIOUS NAMES: Typha angustifolia
MĀORI NAME: RAUPŌ, kōpūngāwhā, kōpūpūngāwhā, ngāwhā; kakaukore (used in southern NZ, Anon 1993 ??)
Edible rhizome or root: kōareare or aka kōareare, kōreirei, kōuka or kāuka, piaka.
Pollen: nehu-raupō, kōnehu-raupō, pungapunga (also refers to cake made of pollen).
Pappus of seeds: hune, tāhune, tāhuna, tāhunga.
Young unexpanded shoots: kārito, kōrito.
Stem of raupō (and maize, etc):
Dried leaves of raupō: ngai
Lower part of stem of raupō: ngatu
Pad of raupō leaves lashed over caulking of the attached sides of canoe: whara (Williams 1971)
Pappus of raupō, used as caulking in a canoe:whara hune (Williams 1971). Apart from Williams, names mostly found in Best 1942 and Makereti 1938
COMMON NAME: bulrush; cat's-reed mace Colenso 1881
MEDICINAL: The pappus of seeds was applied to wounds and old ulcerated sores as a protection against dust. (Colenso 1869a).
Infusion made of flax root, tātarāmoa and raupō roots boiled together as a cleansing remedy to assist in removal of placenta (M. Withers, Opotiki, 1941).

Related pharmacology in Brooker, Cambie and Cooper 1987)
See Riley 1994 for information on medicinal uses of related plants elsewhere in the world.
FOOD: Pollen Pollen made into bread (as in some parts of India). (Kirk, in Taylor 1870).
Process of making bread from the pollen (pua) described in detail (Taylor 1855)
The yellow pollen mixed with water into cakes, baked. Collection process described. (Makereti 1938)
Pollen made into 'gingerbread-like' cakes called pungapunga. (Colenso 1869a, 1869b).
Harvesting, preparation of pollen described. '[The] pollen, in its raw state, closely resembled our ground table-mustard; it was made into a light kind of yellow cake, and baked. It was sweetish to the taste, and not wholly unlike London gingerbread. Thirty years ago, specimens of it, both raw and baked, were sent to the Museum, at Kew. I have seen it collected in buckets-full.' (Colenso 1880)

Rhizomes 'The root of this sedge is filled with a fine mealy substance, which may be eaten' (Taylor 1847, )
Root yields fine meal which is eaten. Kirk, in Taylor 1870
Insipid, watery roots eaten. (Colenso 1869a, 1869b)
Inner part of white succulent roots largely eaten raw, especially by children in summer; mild, cooling, refreshing, not unpleasant (Colenso 1881; Makereti 1938)
The root...'often afford the hungry traveller a meal' (Taylor 1855)
Roots collected, dried, stored. When wanted for food, portion taken, soaked in water for one night, then put in wooden vessel (patua) and pounded with a potuki. Mealy part separated out, mixed with hot water to a kind of porridge. Seeds made into cakes or bread. (Best 1912 p.307).
Outer part of root peeled off, leaving the soft interior, the iho, which was eaten both raw and cooked in a steam-oven. Manuka beetle collected in summer and pounded up, then mixed with the tahuna of the raupo, packed in a small basket, cooked and eaten (Best 1903).
Eating of root also mentioned in Beattie's notes (MS 582/E/11, Hocken). ''Bulrush roots were called ko-areare; they were mashed and formed an article of diet with the old-time Maori'' (Maori informant in Beattie 1920).
Roots, kouka, eaten by Tamaki people (Whatahoro 1913)
DOMESTIC: Leaves strewn round sitting and sleeping places. Downy pappus used for beds, bolsters and pillows. (Colenso 1869a, 1869b; Matthews 1911 ; Best 1925; Beattie 1994)
Down from raupō head invariably filled with small grubs; baked before using as filling for beds and pillows (Taylor 1855).
CONSTRUCTION: The leaves are used in lining and roofing houses (Taylor 1855)
Stalks used in building whare. (Kirk, in Taylor 1870).
Universally used to cover the framework of their houses (Colenso 1869a, 1869b ; Servant 1973).
Used for thatching of storehouses (Best 1916)
Colenso 1882 describes the building by skilled Maori artisans of a library and study in his garden. The totara framework ''had three separate layers of raupo... in its sides (besides the outer coating of a stiff and hard, yet fine Restiaceous plant (Leptocarpus simplex). The raupo was first separated leaf by leaf, without breaking, and so carefully dried...''
FISHING AND HUNTING: Leaves sometimes rolled up and used as fishing floats. Leaves used for canoe sails, laced with flax fibres. The downy pappus (hune) used for caulking and plugging holes in their canoes. (Colenso 1869a, 1869b ; Matthews 1911 ; Best 1925
Temporary rafts (Colenso 1869b).
In canoe making, koreirei (rootstock) used as an inset wherever the edges of two sections met (Best 1925) Papatai = raupō put on the sides of a canoe (White, quoted in Best 1925)
Bundles of rushes used to make rafts called mōkihi or mōkī for crossing rivers. Manufacture described in Shortland 1851. Vessels also described by Selwyn, Tuta Nihoniho, Colenso, Polack, Wakefield in Best 1925.
In an account of the life of Tawhao, the Tainui chief, Tawhao one day constructs a tiny boat of raupō and on it fastened his aurei, greenstone eardrop. This was sent with appropriate incantations across the harbour to his loved one, Marutehiakina. (Te Hurinui 1945)
PASTIME: Dry leaves used to make poi (Te Rangi Hiroa 1949).
Down used as stuffing for poi (Nicholas 1817).
Ornate poi (poi awe) - netted Phormium bags filled with raupō down (tāhuna) and the pappus, ornamented with little tufts of dog hair. Common poi made by wrapping leaves round some object... (Tuta Nihoniho, Ngāti Porou, in Best 1925).
Raupō leaves used to make kites (Taylor, in Best 1925).
Leaf used as bowstring on bent supplejack stem - child's toy called a tirango. (Tuta Nihoniho, ibid).
TRADITIONS: Leaves of rushes used to plait receptacle for iho in baptisimal rite. (Best 1929)
PROVERBS: 'Tee whai patootoo a Rauporoa. Long-Bulrush did not strike loudly and repeatedly (so as to be heard)! or, Long-Bulrush gains nothing by his repeated attempts at hitting! This proverb is used by, or for, a person who returns without that for which he went.' (Colenso 1880: 126)
Colenso goes on to explain: '... the tips of its long narrow numerous leaves are always agitated with the least breeze, and are naturally carried by the same in one direction before the wind; hence, they invariably keep the same distance from each other, or, if they clash, their striking is not heard, and is productive of no result. Moreover, as the longest plants grow only in the deeper water, the saying may also have a latent reference to the greater difficulty in gathering the flowering spikes from such tall plants.'