Māori Plant Use

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Plant Use Details 

Plagianthus regius. Lowland ribbonwood. Mānatu.
FAMILY: Malvaceae Mallow family
BOTANICAL NAME: Plagianthus regius
PREVIOUS NAMES: Plagianthus betulinus
MĀORI NAME: MĀNATU, houi (southern term, Beattie 1994; also in State Conservator of Forests 1877), houhi ongaonga (Tūhoe - Best 1908, 1910) whauwhi, puruhi (Tuhoe; Beever 1991)
COMMON NAME: lowland ribbonwood; ribbonwood
DESCRIPTION: ''The natives believe that [ongaonga] grows into the large tree known as houhi ongaonga, of which the inner bark was eaten in times of scarcity; also that it loses its spines when in the tree stage. Now, I know the tree; it is the houhi with short rounded leaves and thick bark, not the one having long narrow leaves. I have no faith in the Maori theory. The ongaonga (nettle shrub) has no leaves now (August). Its branchlets are extremely tough. The tree, houhi ongaonga, has a few leaves remaiining at this time of year, but most of them have fallen. But the houhi with narrow leaves flourishes the year round covered with leaves'' (Best 1903)

''The Tuhoe Natives call it houhi-ongaonga, because they have a belief that it is a mature form of the ongaonga (Urtica ferox), saying that the latter eventually develops a single stem which grows into the large deciduous houhi - a very singular theory. This tree is certainly deciduous in the Tuhoe district, not partially so. The bark of this tree is extremely thick. Its leaves are eaten by the pigeon'' (Best 1908)
FOOD: Inner bark eaten in times of extreme hunger (Best 1908).
FIBRE: Twigs manufactured into paper in England (Kirk 1889)
'The bark, which is thick and fibrous, might be employed in the manufacture of ropes or paper, but no quantity of it could be procured.' (New Zealand Exhibition 1865. Notes by Buchanan).
Gorrie 1880 convinced that the fibre would be very suitable for paper making ...'this opinion...confirmed by that of eminent paper-makers and others well qualified to judge'
DOMESTIC: Tough bark used for tying (Kirk 1889).
Remarkably tough branches '... may be used like packing twine in tying; and I have found them very serviceable for fastening the branches of wall trees...by knot-tying' (Gorrie 1880).