Māori Plant Use

   Skip Navigation Links
Copyright © 2022

Plant Use Details 

Ripogonum scandens. Kareao. Supplejack. Main reference.
FAMILY: Ripogonaceae
BOTANICAL NAME: Ripogonum scandens
MĀORI NAME: KAREAO and similar spellings, kakareao (Ngāti Whakaue, Beever 1991), karewao, kakarewao, kekereao; taiore (all in Williams 1971); pirita, akapirita (southern terms - Anon 1993; Best, Williams)
Young shoot: kotau
Thicket of supplejack (or kiekie): tāeo (Williams 1971)
COMMON NAME: supplejack; black vine Buchanan
MEDICINAL: Root used by females to procure abortion (Taylor 1848 and 1870).
Roots a substitute for sarsaparilla (Baber 1887 ; Kerry-Nicholls 1886 ; Reed and Bretts 1874 ; Taylor 1848 and 1870 ; Kirk, in Taylor 1870 ; Buchanan, catalogue New Zealand Exhibition 1865).
Root - outer skin scraped off, beaten into pulp, steeped in water. Decoction used for severe rheumatism, bowel complaints. Also fever and general debility. Internal medicine for itch, skin diseases. Decoction drunk to procure abortion. (Brett's Guide 1883; White 1887)
Shoots - eaten as medicine for hakihaki, the itch. (Taylor 1848 and 1870 ; Kerry-Nicholls 1886).
A demulcent (Baber 1887)
(Sarsaparilla is obtained from the roots of members of the genus Smilex, a genus closely related to Ripogonum) (Mason 1941)
Cold infusion used for rheumatism (Bell 1890).
Decoction of roots supposedly good for rheumatism, bowel problems, fever, general debility and skin diseases (Neil 1889).
Roots an alterative (Colenso 1869a).
To cauterise wounds, a piece of half-dry pirita was ignited and used. When desperate, and unable to make a litter, a length of pirita was fastened around the leg of a wounded person and they were dragged away (Best 1903).
Young shoots eaten for scabies. Decoction taken for abortion, secondary symptoms of syphilis. Sap used for abrasions. Rootstocks- skinned, beaten, steeped in water and lotion used medicinally. Wounds cauterised by holding a burning piece of supplejack near the cut (Goldie 1905).
Water exuding from broken shoot applied to wounds (Best 1906).
Stems bruised, used for venereal disease (Gower 1940).
Burnt sticks used to cauterise wounds (Adams 1945).
Blood tonic (Faulkner 1958).
A decoction containing kohekohe bark and kareao roots taken 3x daily before meals for 'sexual diseases generally' (Anon ; on Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Botany Division files 22/15 of 8/1/59. Now in National Archives).
Related pharmacology in Brooker Cambie and Cooper 1987.
See Riley 1994 for information on medicinal uses of related plants elsewhere in the world.
FOOD: Pulp of berry eaten (Brett's Guide 1883)
Crimson berries eaten (Kirk, in Taylor 1870 ; Colenso 1869a ; Best 1942 ; Beattie 1920).

Young shoots very palatable, asparagus like taste (Ed.)
DYES: Mixed well with iron, decoction may be used as an ink (Brett's Guide 1883).
DOMESTIC: Coarse basket and wicker work (Colenso 1869a).
Split stems used to make strong baskets (Buchanan, in list of useful trees in Otago, in catalogue of New Zealand Exhibition 1865 ; H. Jennings, Nelson, exhibited baskets in same exhibition)
Used for spade handles in Waikato and on the East Coast (Best 1925).
Vine used sometimes for flywheel on cord drill by Ngāti Porou (Williams, quoted in Best 1912 p.84).
Kind of creel, called a tōī (Waiapu), used to collect hīnau berries (Best 1942).
Used to make tōī, a kind of creel used as a container. For example, obtaining water over pā stockade, creel containing trough lowered on rope to water supply, hauled back up (Best 1927).
CONSTRUCTION: The plant is used for binding fences, and in building houses (Taylor 1855).
Stems used as house battens ; vines for tying up fences, platforms and the heavy frame-work of houses (Colenso 1869a
FISHING AND HUNTING: Stems used for manufacture of crayfish pots (taruke and pouraka) and creels (tōī and tōiki) (Best 1942). Pliant stems used in making flooring platforms in canoes on the Wanganui River (Wakefield, quoted in Best 1925).
Used in making net hoops for catching kokopu (Galaxias) and holding eels (Best 1903).
Used for hoops of bag nets. Easily split and makes an arched handle for cray-fish nets. Elastic spreaders for tōrehe trap (Te Rangi Hiroa 1926, Makereti 1938)
''Some natives talk of bow and arrow'' Bow (whana) made of pirita, arrows of fernstalk or a shoot (pihi) of the kaiwhiria with a point of kātote lashed on - used by children to kill birds in olden days. Best says sources are unreliable (Best 1902, p.241)
CHEMISTRY: Fatty acids in seeds (Morice 1970)
PASTIME: Māori trumpet, 'tetere', made of supplejack exhibited by Karaitiana, Māori Chief, Pakowai near Napier (Catalogue of New Zealand Exhibition, 1865)
Used for lashing on wooden trumpet, pūkāea, exhibited by Buller in 1892 (Best 1925) Thin piece of stem bent to form a bow, fastened with raupō leaf as bowstring - child's whirring toy called a tirango (Tuta Nihoniho, Ngāti-Porou, in Best 1925).
TRADITIONS: In the North, used ceremonially (with māhoe) for firing the bracken (before collecting fernroot) (Colenso 1881)