Māori Plant Use

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Format and useful tips



A record refers to a bibliographic reference, or a block of information relating to a plant.

All plants are listed under their botanical name (where known), with Māori and English common names, and can be searched on any known name. There is often more than one record relating to a particular plant.

Each record has a unique number. When you search the database for a word or phrase, the search result (“Records found”) will show how many records within the database meet the search criteria. 

Selecting the kowhai symbol Nga Tipu record  beside a botanical name will link you to the Ngā Tipu o Aotearoa, New Zealand Plants database, where you will find authoritative taxonomic information on the plant.



Within each record, information is organised in categories or fields.

References include author, title, date, publisher and notes. The notes field may contain miscellaneous information on particular plants which will be highlighted when a search is made.

Plant names are recorded in these fields:
family, botanical name, previous names (synonyms), Māori name and English common name.

Plant descriptions (where given) and information on uses is recorded in these fields:
source, plant description, medicinal, food, fibre, toxins, chemistry, dyes, construction, domestic, environment, fishing/hunting, traditions, scents, pastimes, and proverbs.

The Link Words field contains words to help the search engine locate all relevant records.

Record number contains the unique record identifier.

All fields can be searched independently. Select a field or fields from the drop-down list. (Click on the down arrow at the right-hand side of the box). 

A common use of the field search is to find all references by a particular author.


Previous names (synonyms)

This field contains some of those names that have been used in the literature to refer to the plant. It is by no means complete. It contains old names that we've come across during information searches. Taxonomists may not recognise them as valid synonyms.



When there are a lot of records on a particular topic (e.g. dyes), the records have been grouped for easy browsing.  Select available topics from the drop-down list. (Click on the down arrow at the right-hand side of the box).

You can browse all records within a topic, or refine your search by typing a word(s) into the Search Text box.


Links or cross references

Cross references to other records are highlighted in blue and underlined.



Long vowels in Māori words are marked with a macron (a line over the vowel). This is an aid to correct pronunciation.

In book titles, and when information is quoted directly, we do not use macrons unless they are in the original text.


Finding all relevant information on plant uses

This database has been built with the general user in mind. You do not need to know the scientific name of a plant to access information. Start with the name you are most familiar with. Then try some of the other names listed for the plant, to make sure you have found all the available records.

If searching for a scientific name, it is worth checking records that link to the genus as well as to a particular species. (e.g. Clematis as well as Clematis paniculata). Informants often did not discriminate plants below the level of genus. Plant species were sometimes wrongly identified and taxonomists have reclassified many native plants. It is best to take a wide view to ensure you capture all the relevant information.


Advanced searching

Searching Ngā Tipu Whakaoranga is a similar process to searching Google or most other search engines.

Simply type a word into the search box and the search engine will find all records that contain the word you specify.

You can enter an individual word, or words with spaces or AND between them, or use the following operators:


trees OR shrubs will bring up records that contain either word


trees AND shrubs will bring up records that contain both words


trees NOT shrubs will bring up records with Trees but not shrubs

" "

"yellow dye" in quotes will bring back results with that exact phrase

& +

Plus sign or ampersand is the same as AND


Minus sign is the same as NOT


Using a space is the same as AND

* or %

The asterisk or wildcard is used to find forms of a particular word, by replacing letters with an *.  E.g. flax* will bring up records that contain the words flaxes or flaxmilling.