Māori Plant Use

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Plant Use Details 

Metrosideros robusta. Northern rātā. Main reference.
FAMILY: Myrtaceae Myrtle family
BOTANICAL NAME: Metrosideros robusta
MĀORI NAME: RĀTĀ, rakapika ([?] Taylor 1870)
Flowers of rātā: kahika, kanohi o tāwhaki (Tuhoe. Best 1908, 1942)
Nectar of rata blossom: wai kaihua
MEDICINAL: Inner bark used for diarrhoea, dysentery (Reed & Brett's Auckland Almanac, 1874).
Bark - lotion for ringworm, venereal disease (applied locally). Flowers, bark used in honey for sore throat (Taylor 1870 ; Brett's Guide 1883).
Bark infusion for dysentery (Kerry-Nicholls 1886).
Bark - poultice for all kinds of sores, wounds, abcesses (Bell 1890).
Bark steeped in cold water, applied for aches and pains (Best 1906;
A decoction of the bark, boiled for some time, is applied to wounds (Best 1908)
Bark decoction - wounds, dysentery. Lotion - pains, ringworm. Honey from flowers used for sore throats (Goldie 1905 and Best 1906).
Infusion made for bathing cuts, bruises, swelling. Juice expressed onto sores. Inner bark covered infected parts (Te Rangi Hiroa 1910).
Bark boiled or crushed when fresh, and steeped overnight. Drain, apply to bruises, 'takes them out very quickly' . Taken for colds, 1 dessertspoon, 3 - 4 times a day. (Poverty Bay Federation of Women's Institutes Cookery Calendar, mid 1930s?).
Young leaves chewed and applied to hollow of sore tooth (T. Kururangi 1941).
Sap from short lengths of vine blown on wounds - e.g. dog ripped by pigs (Adams 1945).
FOOD: Vine produces an astringent beverage (Baber 1887).
In Matatua district, honey from rātā blossoms is called wai kaihua. Kākā are very fond of this nectar and used to flock in great numbers to rātā trees about January (Best 1942).
Kahika (rātā flowers), along with pōānanga (Clematis) and tāwari (Ixerba) blossoms, said to produce the finest honey (Best 1908).
DOMESTIC: Wallace 1989 found 6 fernroot beaters, 16 mauls, 2 paddles, a weapon, 2 eel clubs, 2 ketu, 3 ko, 1 teka, 1 wakahuia made of Metrosideros species among museum artefacts he tested.
CONSTRUCTION: A hard, but not durable wood (Taylor 1870)
Timber tree. Shipbuilding. Wheelwright's work. Cabinetmaking.(Colenso 1869a). (N.B. - details on post-European timber uses generally not recorded in this database.)
Used for beams in storage houses (Best 1916).
FISHING AND HUNTING: Posts of mānuka and rātā used in making of eel weirs. (Makereti 1938)
When kākā seen on the rātā, seeking the nectar, ''it is known that the rarangi tahi season has arrived, so the bird-snares are laid aside, and the long, pliant spears get to work'' (Best 1908)
CHEMISTRY: Essential oil described in Gardner 1931.
Tannins and other bark compounds described (see references in Cambie 1976; Aston 1918b, 1918c; Kirk 1889; )
PASTIME: Wallace 1989 found a spinning top made of Metrosideros among the museum artefacts he tested.
TRADITIONS: Traditions concerning rātā in Best 1908. The tree grows slanting because long ago a moa trod on the first little rātā tree (Anderson 1954).
PROVERBS: 'Kei whawhati noa mai te rau o te raataa. Don't pluck and fling about to no purpose the blossoms of the raataa tree! The raataa tree... produces myriads of red flowers; the small parts of these when blown off by the winds fill the air around: so, - Don't become ashamed when your lying is detected.' (Colenso 1880: 124)
George Grey interprets this saying as: ''Do not fly into a passion (get red in the face) for no cause, like the wind scattering the rata blossom.''