Māori Plant Use

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Plant Use Details 

Elaeocarpus dentatus. Hīnau. Main reference.
FAMILY: Elaeocarpaceae Oleaster family
BOTANICAL NAME: Elaeocarpus dentatus
PREVIOUS NAMES: Dicera dentata (in Taylor)
MĀORI NAME: HĪNAU, whīnau, hangehange, pōkākā (not in East Cape - Beever 1991)
Hīnau gruel: wai haro (Best 1942)
Hīnau berries: te whatu o poutini (emblematical name for berries, used in song and aphorism (Best 1908)
Pulp of hīnau fruit: renga
MEDICINAL: ''.. if not near a Suphur Spring, he makes a hot bath of water, adding a decoction of the bark of the Hinau. This is said to cure the severest skin disease'' (O'Carroll 1884)
Hinau meal gruel sometimes made for sick folk (Best 1942).

Seeds good source of essential fatty acids, generally regarded as protective against cardiovascular disease. (Cambie, Ferguson 2003)
See also Brooker, Cambie and Cooper 1987 for related pharmacology.
See Riley 1994 for information on medicinal uses of related plants elsewhere in the world.
FOOD: Berries an important food source.
See detailed section in Best 1942. Gathering, various preparation processes described (East Coast and Waikato). Commonly, berries pounded, sieved, made into meal, steamed, stored in water. Meal not steamed in flax baskets, as they imparted a bitter flavour. Tī, kiekie, rangiora, raureka, Astelia, Collospermum, ferns used. See also Best 1903.
Many authors discuss the use of berries for food: Kirk, in Taylor 1870 ; Bretts Guide 1883 ; Colenso 1869a, 1869b; Neil 1889.
Other detailed sections are in Colenso 1881 ; Taylor 1855.
''..though commonly eaten by the natives, it has a very harsh taste.'' (Taylor 1847)
Hīnau berries were covered with water in a wooden trough and left to soak. ''The mass was then rubbed between the hands, and the skin and nut were strained out and the water carefully drained away, leaving a kind of coarse meal which was made into a large cake and cooked for several hours in a hangi. The old Māori considered it a great luxury.'' (Makereti 1938)
Kernel hard and nutritious (Servant 1973).
''In appearance this food when cooked is dark in colour, and looks both solid and heavy. It somewhat resembles a dried linseed poultice'' (Best 1903).
DYES: Bark provides a brown dye, mixed with iron in paru swamps to make a bright and durable black. Described by many authors: Taylor 1855; Kirk, in Taylor 1870 ; Reed and Bretts 1874 ; Bretts Guide 1883 ; Colenso 1869a, 1869b; Neil 1889 ; Nicholas 1817 ('enou') ; Craik 1830 ('henow') ; Yate 1835 ; Wade 1842 ; Dieffenbach 1843 ; New Zealand Journal 1846;
Hīnau widely used in dyeing. Water in which pounded bark steeped seems to act as a mordant. An exudation from the tree employed in the preparation of black tattooing pigment. Said to prevent tattoos from fading. 'In my own youth, we were wont to make writing ink from this bark' (Best 1908, 1942).
Bark used to stain flax samples (Flax Exhibition Catalogue 1871)
Mordant composed of aluminous clay (Colenso 1869a, 1869b)
Bark used by a few inland Māori tribes for dyeing flax cloths (Cheeseman 1906)
Nicholas 1817 (p.340) described the vessel used to dye fibre in.
Dyeing processes also described in Best 1899.
''Hangehange, the bark used as a black dye'' (Taylor)
DOMESTIC: Bark used to make large bags used during preparation of raupō pollen for bread (Taylor 1855).
Hīnau used as a wedge to jam greenstone into hole on sawing block. Hīnau has a strong, tough grain, but is soft enough to bend to form of stone (Best 1912 p.12).
Bark sometimes used for small water vessels (Best 1942).
Young, tough saplings such as hīnau sometimes tied with a knot. Cut later when the desired size and made into walking sticks (Best 1908).
Among museum artefacts he tested Wallace 1989 found 2 teka made of hīnau.
Hītari or tātari are specially made harakeke baskets for sieving meal (renga) of hīnau berries.
CONSTRUCTION: Cabinetmaking (Colenso 1869a) (N.B. - details on post-European timber uses generally not included in this database).
FISHING AND HUNTING: In Best 1925: Carved prow and stern posts of canoe could be blackened by steeping in hīnau dye for (usually) two nights, then thrown in a parapara swamp for a night. Then smeared with oil or grease. Black colour was approved of and was permanent. (Hare Hongi, Northern Māori). Canoe bailers.
CHEMISTRY: Fatty acids in seeds and fruit coat described by Morice 1975.

Bark tannins described in Smith 1879; Kirk 1889 ; Aston 1918b, 1919a. See also references in Cambie 1976.
TRADITIONS: ''Kia whakaara koe i taku moe, ko te whatu turei a Rua'' (When you awaken me from my sleep let it be for the purpose of eating the whatu turei a Rua - hīnau meal) (Best 1903).