Māori Plant Use

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Plant Use Details 

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Coriaria arborea. C. sarmentosa. Tutu. Main reference.
FAMILY: Coriariaceae Tutu family
BOTANICAL NAME: Coriaria arborea; Coriaria sarmentosa and allied species
MĀORI NAME: TUTU, tāweku, (tūpākihi, tāwehu, Taylor 1847), pūhou, (pukou, Taylor 1855), puho (Makereti 1938), tuturakau (South Island, Anon 1993); tua-tutu; tupāke (see Note).
poisonous seeds, poison: huarua, pohou (Best 1908, 1942), tutupakihi (Makereti 1938).
jelly (with kelp): rehia (Beattie 1920)
juice: waitutu toroi, fermented juice (Best 1942)
COMMON NAME: toot; tree tutu
NOTES: ''The too-well-known 'Toot' of the Otago farmer; the Wine-berry shrub of the early settlers of the Bay of lslands (according to Dr Bennett, and the Treasury of Botany); the Tutu, Tupakihi, and Puhou of the North Island Maoris; the Taweku of the Waikatos; the Tupāke of Coromandel district; the Tua-tutu of Otago. (Hooker). Of these designations the most familiar, important , and comprehensive is Tutu. This term appears also to be a generic or general one - indiscriminately applied to all the New Zealand Coriariae - especially, perhaps, the larger forms. Not only, however, does it refer to the plant as a whole, but in some districts, to particular products thereof. In the East Cape dialect it is applied to the juice of the 'Berry' ... Dieffenbach again defines Tutu s a ''Wine made from the Berries of the Tupakihi' '' (Lindsay 1868)
MEDICINAL: Section on tutu in Best 1942.
Poisonous apart from succulent petals surrounding the seeds. Used in epilepsy with supposed success (Buchanan, in list of useful trees of Otago, Catalogue of New Zealand Exhibition, 1865)

Leaves, shoots: Leaves a lotion for wounds (with tawa and rimu bark) used by Tūhoe. Decoction for dysentery (Armitage) (Brett's Guide 1883; Goldie 1905).
Tender shoot or pith of leaf used for dysentery (Taylor 1870).
Young shoots boiled till black, poultice made, applied to sprains and bruises. Bell tried tincture of tutu in various chronic nervous diseases.(Bell 1890).
Tender shoots when plucked at certain seasons used for dysentery (Kerry-Nicholls 1886).
Young shoots scraped and formed into poultices, applied to bruises, bleeding cuts, and boils (Poverty Bay Federation of Women's Institutes Cookery Calendar, mid 1930s?)
Leaves, shoots - decoction a widely used herbal remedy. Bathing with the fluid heals bad cuts, sores, bruises, reduces inflammation (Adams 1945).
Used for malignant growths, but preparation 'tricky'. Applied beneficially to swollen joints, rheumatics, broken bones (Collier 1959).

Sap, pith, bark: Pith mixture containing juices used in cases of insanity. (Brett's Guide 1883; Goldie 1905).
Sap a remedy for madness (homeopathic) (Taylor 1870).
Pith - poultice, inflamed wounds (Adams 1945).
Tūpākihi. Nearly fill a billy with leaves. Cover with water. Boil till the water is coloured. Bathe the broken leg or bruise with the warm water in which the leaves were boiled. Apply the 'kaikai' plaster (see below). Tie with a 'bandage' - raupō or flax or bark (hammered with a stone to make it soft) or fibres (muka). In summer, rub the injured part with pig's fat (or some kind of oil) before applying the plaster, because it gets very hot. Tūpākihi plaster: Cut a young stalk of tūpākihi about 2 feet long. Scrape out the green pith and sap with a knife or a shell. Apply the plaster to the injured part, every four hours for a week. The plaster keeps the injured part cool and prevents inflammation. If it is a broken leg, obtain a piece of bark for a splint as nearly as possible the same size as the leg. (P. Smith 1940).
Bark boiled, limb bathed with infusion, bark used as pack `for broken limbs' (S. Neil 1941)

Fruit: Berry juice fermented with seaweed for constipation (often caused by eating tōtara, rimu, karaka berries) (Brett's Guide 1883; Goldie 1905).

Root: A. A. Gower, chemist, made a preparation from the root called 'mauru' for neuralgia and rheumatism, and to relieve eyestrain. 'Has been used internally by a bushman (1 teaspoon), and instantly relieved pain.' Ruth Mason, Botany Division, DSIR, Christchurch (his niece) reported that Gower maintained he made a non-poisonous remedy for internal use from tutu roots, but was not prepared to hand over the recipe to her. (DSIR Botany Division records).
FOOD: Large quantities consumed as beverage.
Juice made into wine (Earp 1853).
'... the fruit can only be used by expressing the juice and carefully separating all the seeds. It is the native wine, and when boiled with Rimu, a sea weed, forms a jelly which is very palatable; when fermented, it makes a sort of wine, and it contains so much colouring matter, that it may be used as a dye' (Taylor 1847)
The natives express the juice in large quantities, which they drink with impunity, having first carefully strained off all the seeds and foot-stalks, which are highly poisonous; they also boil it with sea-weed, and eat it in the form of jelly. Sheep and cattle are extremely fond of its leaves. The young shoots come up remarkably strong, tender, and succulent. If fed upon the first thing in the morning with an empty stomach, it frequently occasions death, but otherwise, taken with grass, it appears to be as nourishing a food as clover, which also produces similar effects. (Taylor 1855).

Shortland (1851) describes process of obtaining juice. Kelp (rimu) and tutu juice boiled together in trough, left till cold, result is black coloured jelly called rehia.

''Secure some kelp .... and take it up-country to a place where tutu is plentiful. Gather tutu berries and put them in a putoro, a small flax bag very closely woven so that the seeds of the tutu cannot get through. Squeeze the bag, and the juice comes through and forms a good drink, called waitutu. Take an ipu, or wooden trough, put the kelp and tutu juice in it and boil by putting hot stones in. You can tell that the kelp is boiled enough by poking a stick into it and it falls to bits. Leave it till it is cold, and the result is a black-coloured jelly, called rehia, which was often eaten by the aid of an akapipi (mussel shell).
Waitutu was a good, refreshing drink, although sweet..... I never heard of any other drinks among the old people except for waskorari, waitutu, and water'' (Māori informant in Beattie 1920)

'..as good as European wine. This Waitutu wine kept all right' (Tunuku Karetai in Beattie, MS 582/E/11, Hocken).
Pleasant juice drunk in large quantities in early summer. Seaweed used to thicken the juice. Fruit of tutupapa (C. plumosa) eaten. (Colenso 1869a, 1869b, 1881).
In summer, fernroot soaked in tutu juice before eating. (Colenso 1869b).
Berry juice a pleasant drink, especially boiled with seaweed (O'Carroll 1884).
Berry juice fermented and drunk as a relish and laxative (Neil 1889).
Pleasant wine often made by settlers from juicy petals - 'after standing some time resemble a light claret'. Similar extract made by Māori, thickened with certain seaweed (Kirk 1889, Taylor 1870).
Juice very sweet (Servant 1973).

Section on tutu in Best 1942. Description of expression of juice in plaited basket, pū tutu. Lined with toetoe panicles to retain seeds. Fernroot sometimes put in tutu jelly (juice + seaweed) to improve its flavour. Wakefield, quoted in Best 1908, describes juice as a 'sickly beverage'. Juice used as beverage by travellers (ibid). Preparation of tutu juice also described in Best 1903.

Makereti 1938 says the berries were gathered when fully ripe and a deep blue-black colour. Made a drink known as wai pūhou. Juice often mixed with other foods such as aruhe (fernroot), after the starchy substance had been pounded.
DYES: See comment by Taylor 1847, above.
Tanning properties noted by Buchanan (Catalogue, New Zealand Exhibition, 1865).
Bark and wood used for dye (Reed and Brett's 1874).
Near Whangarei, juice used for tattooing pigment (Bell 1890).
Bark used to obtain a blue-black dye used for fancy and ornamental work... it had a very peculiar hue (Colenso 1882b).
Best (1942) considers that the bluish-black dye obtained was not used in weaving.
Black dye from the wood and bark (New Zealand Journal 1846 ; Shortland 1851).
Notes on tutu as a dye wood in Hughes 1871; Skey, in an editorial note, suggests the dyeing properties are due solely to the abundance of tannin.

See Aston 1918b for details on tanning properties. Note comments on related species.
The dye quercitin isolated (Easterfield and Aston 1901).
Makes khaki dye (Wall, Cranwell 1943)
TOXINS: As Connor 1997 describes, tutu is the classical poison plant of New Zealand. Examples of stock losses, poisonous honey, chemical investigations and toxicology given.

Chemical compounds, especially the toxin tutin, discussed in many papers. See Cambie 1976, 1988 for list of references.

Shortland 1851 discusses poisonous nature of the plant and remedies. Main danger, he says, from stems and green boughs and fruit.

PASTIME: Flutes made of woody stems (Colenso 1869a, 1869b, 1881).
Best 1925: Buller describes a rehu (flute) made of hollowed out stem. Mair and Tuta Nihoniho say kōauau made from same. White describes a whio made from same. Some trumpets, pūkāea, made from straight stem of tutu, hollowed out.
TRADITIONS: Best 1908 says that (in Urewera) if a person breaks off young branches of tutu it will rain before long.
'Me te whata raparapa tuna e iri mai ana te tutu' (the tutu berries hang as thick and black as eels on a drying-stage) - applied to the tutu when covered with the ripe fruit (Best 1903)