Māori Plant Use

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Plant Use Details 

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Broussonetia papyrifera. Aute. Paper mulberry. Main reference.
FAMILY: Moraceae Mulberry family
BOTANICAL NAME: Broussonetia papyrifera Exotic
COMMON NAME: paper mulberry
NOTES: Introduced, brought from Polynesia by early Maori. Climate too cold for its long-term survival. [Ed].
In former times the aute was grown at the Pou-tiriao Pā in the Waiapu district (Tuta Nihoniho, Ngāti Porou, in Best 1925).
Solander in 1769 described it as 'culta in septentrionali parte Nov. Zel. sed rara'.
MEDICINAL: Inner bark used as sponge for mothers' milk, paepae waiū. Milk retained in bark, squeezed into infant's mouth, as from a sponge, during mother's absence. (Tuta Nihoniho, in Best 1925)
See Riley 1994 for information on medicinal uses of related plants elsewhere in the world.
FIBRE: Assiduously planted, only for purpose of obtaining white fillets for the hair of the chiefs. Long been nearly, if not quite, extinct ((Colenso 1869a, 1869b).
Once manufactured into cloth for loin cloths, maro aute. Two beaters found in Whangarei Harbour (Te Rangi Hiroa 1949).
Nga Maihi were living in a pa at Puketapu (Te Teko), near Rangitaiki River... Eventually escaped from the pa where they had been under attack by various branches of the Ngati-Awa tribe. Settled at Tauranga. 'Noone remained save a few whom Rangi-ka-wehea retained as beaters of aute, they being skilled in the manufacture of cloth from that bark' (Best 1903, 215-216)
DOMESTIC: Used to make ear ornaments (whakakai).
PASTIME: Flying kites (pākaukau and manuaute), formerly in great esteem among them, made of the manufactured bark of the aute shrub. Inferior kites made of the prepared leaves of some of the larger sedges (Colenso 1892b).
Used for kites (Te Rangi Hiroa 1949 ; Best 1899).
See chapter on kites and kite flying in Best 1925, pp.122-144. Preparation of bark for kite making described. In Wairarapa, prepared bark sometimes used to cover kites... doubtful if the aute was cultivated in the Wairarapa district, but it is said to have been grown in the Napier district.
TRADITIONS: Proverbs cited (Colenso 1892b). Some traditions on bringing of aute to New Zealand in Colenso 1882a.
See fable concerning whau and aute in Taylor 1855.
Aute used to cover the symbol of an atua (Best 1899). See note from H. Tikitu, Ngātiawa, (in Best 1899, p.653) on early knowledge of aute. Also p.635 (ibid), H. T. Pio, Ngātiawa, on the origin of weaving. Among ancient garments, Pio mentioned `te kiri o Tāne' (tree-bark). Best suggests it may possibly be a reference to the aute of Polynesia.
Aute included in list of plants brought by the Tainui and successfully grown by Whakaotirangi. Mahuhu tradition mentions use of plant at Wairota (Te Rangi Hiroa 1949).
PROVERBS: 'He manu aute e taea te whakahoro! A flying-kite made of paper mulberry bark can be made to fly fast! (away, by lengthening the cord).
Used by a lover, expressive of impatience at not being able to get away to see the beloved one.'
'Te aute tee whawhea! The paper mulberry bark is not blown away by the winds.
Meaning: Peaceful times; all going on well; no disturbances.
'The bark [of the aute] was, after being beaten and washed, etc., spread out to dry in small pieces, but only in fine, calm weather.'
A similar proverb is:
'Haere mai ki Hauraki, te aute tee awhea! Come hither.. to Hauraki... where the prepared paper mulberry bark is not blown away (or disturbed) by the winds while drying and bleaching.' (Colenso 1880: 145)