Māori Plant Use

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Plant Use Details 

Alectryon excelsus. Tītoki. Main reference.
FAMILY: Sapindaceae Soap-berry family
BOTANICAL NAME: Alectryon excelsus
MĀORI NAME: TĪTOKI, tokitoki, tongitongi, tapitapi, tītongi; topitopi(''In the south, the fruit is called titoki, and the tree topitopi.'' Taylor 1855)
MEDICINAL: Green oil used for wounds, sores, chafed skin, bruises, painful joints, weak eyes, into ear for earache. Internal use as laxative. Red pulp relieves bloodspitting in consumptives (Brett's Guide 1883; Goldie 1905).
A piece of soft cloth soaked in the oil was placed over the navel if it was sore or required softening in newborn children (Makereti 1938; Best 1929).
Berries 'a great remedy' (Gower 1940).

Related pharmacology in Brooker, Cambie and Cooper 1987.
See Riley 1994 for information on medicinal uses of related plants elsewhere in the world.
FOOD: 'This tree bears a singular looking fruit more agreeable to the eye than to the taste, ... having a black seed in the centre, from which the natives extract an oil; the fruit is sweet, but has a very rough taste.'(Taylor 1847)
Fruit tart, though edible (Taylor 1855)
'... a sweet fruit, but a little sharp' (Servant 1973).
Flavour described as slightly acid, rather rough to taste, exciting saliva. Fine oil (Allom, in Earp 1853).
DOMESTIC: Fine oil expressed from the seed (Taylor 1855).
Method of extracting oil described in Brett's Guide.
Detailed section on tītoki oil in Best 1908, 1942. Best discusses various methods of extracting the oil. Illustration of kopa or tawiri, a device for squeezing tītoki berries in Best 1942: 58.
Timber used to make light axe handles (Colenso 1869a)
Oils valued for armourer, watchmaker. (Reed and Brett's 1874) Anointing oil (Colenso 1869a)
CONSTRUCTION: Timber tree, used like Ash. Wheelwrights. Shipwrights. (Colenso 1869a) (N.B. - Details on colonial timber uses generally not part of this database)
CHEMISTRY: Chemical compounds in leaves, bark and seed oil listed in Cambie 1976, with references.
TOXINS: Suspected of poisoning stock (Allan 1944)
PASTIME: Pole of green tītoki used in making a kind of sling, tipao. Used to make roria or Jew's harp (Best 1925)
SCENT: Oil rendered fragrant by steeping it in leaves of heketara (Olearia sp.), kōareare (Raukaua edgerleyi), mānuka and kōpuru (a moss). Also pia tarata, gum from the lemonwood. Oil used for hair-oil, scent sachets (Best 1908, 1942)
PROVERBS: Sayings related to tītoki (Best 1908, 1942) ' Ko nga rangatira a te tau tītoki! Chiefs of the titoki year!
Colenso explains: The tītoki... only bore fruit plentifully (according to them) every fourth year; so that, in that year, all hands could use the oil and a little red pigment, and thus, for once, look like a chief without being so.' (Colenso 1880: 128)
LINK WORDS: music, Pseudopanax