Māori Plant Use

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Plant Use Details 

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Freycinetia banksii. Kiekie. Weaving plant. Main reference.
FAMILY: Pandanaceae Screw-pine family
BOTANICAL NAME: Freycinetia banksii
PREVIOUS NAMES: Freycinetia baueriana spp. banksii
MĀORI NAME: KIEKIE, peeia; ori (Taylor 1848) ??
Roots: akakiekie
Edible flower bracts: TĀWHARA tarapapa (Ngai Tahu; Williams 1971) (tawera Taylor 1855)
Male bracts: kohune (Beever 1991)
Fruit: UREURE uriuri, as spelt in Taylor 1848 pātangatanga (Taylor 1848), tēure, tīrori (Best 1942), pīrori (Taylor 1855),
Thicket of kiekie: tāeo (Williams 1971)
COMMON NAME: geagea Solander in 1769 recorded kiekie as 'geagea'
MEDICINAL: See Riley 1994 for information on medicinal uses of related plants elsewhere in the world.
FOOD: '... it bears a flower the inner leaves of which are soft and fleshy, and form a delicious fruit in summer; in winter the fruit attains a length of nearly a foot, and a diameter of three inches, the outer skin is rough and very bitter, but when scraped off it exposes the pulp of the fruit, which when fully ripe is very sweet and of an agreeable flavour: this may be considered by far the finest native fruit of New Zealand: the flower fruit is called Tawara, and is ripe in summer, the other is called Pirori, and is in season in the middle of winter.' (Taylor 1847)
'The inner leaves (bracts) are very thick, white, fleshy, and sweet, and the whole flower is eaten by natives and settlers alike. The fruit is usually borne in clusters of 3-5, oblong, 6 inches long, much wrinkled on the outside, and when the rind is taken off affords delicious eating' (Kirk, in Taylor 1870).
Fruit and sugary bract-like spadices eaten. Thus, plants yielded food twice in a year, summer and winter. (Colenso 1869a, 1869b, 1881 ; Best 1908).
Leaves tied over fruit to protect it. Fruit (bracts?) 'melts in mouth as would a ripe pear' (Allom, in Earp 1853).
' the bractae of its blossoms are thick and fleshy, and when ripe are very sweet, with a flavour not unlike a luscious pear' (Taylor 1855).
Sweet flesh - tawara - eaten (Servant 1973). Angas compared flavour to a rich and juicy pear with an aromatic flavour resembling vanilla. A. S. Thomson said it was our finest indigenous fruit. (both quoted in Best 1942).
See also Makereti 1938.
In Whanganui, karaka berries placed in baskets of kiekie for steeping process - kiekie more durable under water than flax (Best 1942).
Eaten in South Westland (Madgwick 1992)
FIBRE: Fibrous leaves used in weaving and plaiting.
Common articles of clothing, war-mats of defence woven from leaves.(Colenso 1869a, 1869b).
Pākē = rough, serviceable cloak from kiekie fibre. Tāwhara-nui = garment from kiekie. Capes made after retting leaves (Best 1899).
Especially useful to Tūhoe, since forest lands did not produce flax. (Best 1908).
Belts, rough capes made (Best 1908 ; Te Rangi Hiroa 1923).
Kiekie supplied material for finest whāriki. The leaves were scraped and prepared like flax, and became quite white when dry (Makereti 1938)
''Kiakia [sic.] is the name of a creek at Woodside, near Outram, and it runs into Lee Creek. It is so called becaue of the kiakia which grew there. The kiakia is a small bush-like spear-grass or grass-tree, and the Maori went there to get it. They soaked it with the bark of the pokaka tree and a dye resulted>'' (Beattie 1920)
DOMESTIC: Interior of verandahs and sides of chief's houses patterned with pīngao, kiekie and harakeke. Floor and sleeping mats. Baskets. (Colenso 1869a, 1869b; Best 1908).
Leaves spun into threads, cords, ropes (Colenso 1892b).
Process of making fine-woven takapau (sleeping mats) described in Best 1899.
Used for best class of mats, baskets (Te Rangi Hiroa 1923).
FISHING AND HUNTING: Aerial roots used for fish traps (Te Rangi Hiroa 1949). Used in making hinaki, eel traps (Makereti 1938)
Aerial roots used for lashings in canoe making (Best 1925). Used in making canoe sails (Tuta Nihoniho, ibid).
TRADITIONS: Tradition of one kiekie plant at Manga-pohatu. Known as Te Kiekie a Rangi-wai-tatao. See Best 1908.
Traditionally, kiekie and harakeke are brothers who have long been separated. Harakeke went with Wainui, the Mother of the Waters, while kiekie stayed with Tāne, being carried piggy-back wherever they went. (Anderson 1954).
One tradition states that when Tama, in his wanderings from East Cape down the West Coast of both Islands, found his wife behind a prickly palisade, he tore his cloak made from bleached kiekie leaves in his struggles to get through. Bits fell off wherever he went and took root to become a permanent record of his passing. (Anderson 1954).
PROVERBS: 'He wha tāwhara ki uta, he kiko tamure ki tai. Inland is the tāwhara fruit; in the sea, the flesh of the snapper. Meaning: Sweet food for man is everywhere, in land and water, by exertion. The tāwhara is ... generally found plentifully in the white pine forests, and formerly eaten abundantly.' (Colenso 1880: 117)