Recently I stumbled across this little gem, which is a great resource for NZ bushcraft. A section of the website Eske-Style (yes that's its name) is entirely devoted to traditional plant use by Maori. Just like anything, it may not be wise to base everything on one source so make sure to research from multiple reputable sources, especially with wild edibles. Not knowing what you are doing can result in nasty consequences so do be careful!

For generations Maori have using the plants around them for food, tools, crafts, and medicinal purposes. Definitely check out the full page, I have chosen a selection below that are useful from a bushcraft point of view. I have also included links to other sites for more information and pictures for identification.

Aruhe: Used for food

The roots of this common fern were dug in winter and roasted. When required for food they were pounded to release the starchy material. Young shoots were eaten fresh.

Pteridium esculentum

Kotukutuku: Used for food

The largest fuchsia species in the world forms a small tree with flaking bark. When ripe the sweet black berry, konini was eagerly sought for food.

Fuchsia excorticata

Makomako aka Wineberry: Used for food

A small tree bearing reddish, almost transparent leaves. The current sized berries were sought for food.

Aristotelia serrata

Powiwi: Used for Food

Long white roots of these coastal sand plants were roasted and eaten.

Calystegia soldanella

Rengarenga: Used for food

Fleshy roots of this lily-like coastal plant were formerly cooked and eaten.

Arthropodium cirrhatum

Raupo: Used for building and food

When cut, separated, dried and bundled the leaves of this marsh plant made a valuable building material. Pollen from the flowers was gathered and formed into small cakes before being cooked on a heated stone.

Typha orientalis

Rata: Used for cordage

Tough, supple stems of this vine were much valued as a tying material, for making eel and crayfish traps as well as pirori and morere (hoops and swings) for children.

Metrosideros fulgens

Tauhinau: Used for fishing

Nikau: Used for food, roofing and canoe paddles

With a name meaning "no coconut" this palm is widespread in coastal areas. Young shoots are edible. The leaves were valued for roofing. Leaf stalks doubled as makeshift paddles for a canoe.

Rhopalostylis sapida

Akeake: Used for tools and weapons

This small tree has hard black wood with creamy-white stripes. The slender trunk was favoured material for weapons and tool handles.

Dodonea viscosa

Harakeke: Used for beliefs, clothing, fishing, medicine and boats

The dark green leaves of flax contain one of the strongest natural fibres known. The leaves were plaited for baskets, clothes and fishing nets. The tohunga (keeper of knowledge) used the leaves for healing rites, by
applying the root juice to skin problems, like boils. A bundle of dried flower stems made rafts.

Phormium tenax

Ti Kouka (aka Cabbage Tree): Used for clothes, food, and weaving

th the cooked roots and base of young shoots were eaten. The leaves were used for making garments, baskets, mats and twine.

Cordyline australis

Kareao (aka Supplejack): Used for cordage and medicine

The long supple stems of this tall vine formed ladders to climb cliffs, trees and enemy palisades. Also used for
lobster pots and baskets. Together with rata, it was the most valuable tying material for fences, houses and canoes. Burning stems cauterised wounds.

Ripogonum scandens

Kaikomako: Used for starting fires

A sharp pointed stick was rubbed vigorously along a groove in a dry piece of pata or ma hoe to make fire.

Sap from the leaves of this small forest tree was used against ringworm (fungus) affecting the skin. A groove in a dry log was rubbed vigorously with a kaikomako stick to make fire.

Schefflera digitat

Kanuka and Manuka: Used for building, weapons and medicine

Small aromatic "tea trees", which frequently form dense shrub. Weapons and tools were fashioned from
heavy straight stems. The trunks as well as the brushwood were used as building materials. The antibacterial properties of these plants (leaves and inner bark) are well documented and I have used these in the bush they do work.

Kunzia ericoides, Leptospermum scoparium

Whau: Used for fishing
Extremely lightweight wood. It was shaped into marker buoys and floats
for fishing lines.

Entelea arborescens

Views: 7476

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of BushcraftNZ to add comments!

Join BushcraftNZ

Comment by grilla haskell on October 13, 2010 at 20:43

Comment by grilla haskell on October 13, 2010 at 20:42
I found a book at the Tauranga library: "A field guide to the Native Edible Plants of New Zealand" by Andrew Crowe. He's a prolific writer and has published plenty of books on the identification of NZ plants, flowers, trees and insects. It's worth doing a search on his name through the online library catalogue.

Comment by Ryan Johnson-Hunt on October 13, 2010 at 20:14
@Tony: Resources in this area are a bit sparse actually. Rongoa Maori is the term for traditional medicinal plant use, and can be a good start for a library search (here is a good link).

I have found more resources online myself, but if anyone has found a good book or two I would be glad to hear about it

Comment by grilla haskell on October 12, 2010 at 0:38
Excellent post Ryan, that's a fantastic resource. Do you know of any books that cover the traditional use of plants in NZ?

Comment by Ryan Johnson-Hunt on August 1, 2010 at 7:21
Definitely. You can make a medicinal tea from the leaves and well. They taste kind of peppery, no surprise as the plant is related to the black pepper plant.

Comment by Ryan on July 31, 2010 at 19:34
What about kawakawa? I always thought that was edible/

Support Us

Shop through this affiliate link portal as we get a small commission:


  • Add Videos
  • View All


  • Add Photos
  • View All

© 2020   Created by Ryan Johnson-Hunt.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service