Māori Plant Use

   Skip Navigation Links
Copyright © 2019

Plant Use Details 

 
Rhopalostylis sapida. Nīkau. Main reference.
FAMILY: Arecaceae Palm family
BOTANICAL NAME: Rhopalostylis sapida
MĀORI NAME: NĪKAU
Fully grown nīkau: kaihuia (Williams 1971)
Young shoot: miko (Taylor 1847, 1870; Williams 1971)
Unexpanded shoot: muka munga
Heart, unexpanded leaves: kōrito (Colenso 1881; ''blanched heart'')
MEDICINAL: Pith is cooked, eaten for few weeks by expectant mothers - slightly relaxing the bowels, pelvic ligaments (Brett's Guide 1883; Goldie 1905; Bell 1890)
'In the opinion of New Zealanders, this root has medicinal properties...' (Servant 1973).
Pith used as laxative (Faulkner 1958).
Related pharmacology in Brooker, Cambie and Cooper, 1987
FOOD: Young shoots a favourite food, cooked or raw (Taylor 1847; Kirk, in Taylor 1870; Colenso 1869a, 1869b ; Best 1908, 1942).
Excellent eating -juicy, succulent, nutty. As obtaining the heart meant killing the plant, not commonly used (Colenso 1881).
Heart blanched. A favoured food, but not commonly eaten. (Makereti 1938)
Heart eaten (Allom, in Earp 1853).
'the tender shoot is eaten; it tastes somewhat like a nut' (Taylor 1855)
'The rito, root (sic) has a very sweet taste...'(Servant 1973)
Rito sometimes pickled in vinegar by early settlers (Best 1942) Koata eaten, circular butts of leaves being stripped off until the soft, white, edible inner part is reached. (Best 1903).
DOMESTIC: Used sometimes for making mats, baskets (Colenso 1869a, 1869b; Servant 1973)
Leaves used for making primitive baskets, similar to coconut palm baskets in the Pacific (Te Rangi Hiroa 1923)
CONSTRUCTION: Fronds used extensively for inner works of roofs, sides, partitions etc., along with Cortaderia species. (Colenso 1869a, 1869b; Servant 1973)
''...regularly placed on while fresh, and their long narrow pinnate leaflets neatly interlaced; these, which were green at first, soon became of a uniform dark-brown colour on drying, serving remarkably well to set off to advantage the light-coloured rafters of karui , or of tawa wood. This manner of roofing,chiefly obtained at the north, among the Ngapuhi tribe, where the totara timber was not so common as at the south.'' (Colenso 1882)

'The pinnate leaf is of large size, and is used in lining the inside of the roof; the natives plait it very neatly' Taylor 1855

Used for thatching on storage houses (Best 1916).
CHEMISTRY: Fatty acids from seeds and fruit coats have been examined by Morice 1970, 1975.
TRADITIONS: 'Mehemea ka koeretia te rau o te nīkau, ka rara te waha' (when a leaf of the nīkau is torn off, its voice shrieks) - alludes to sound caused by tearing off the leaf-bases (Best 1903)
RECORD NUMBER: 1088