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The forests of Waipoua comprise the garden of Tane Mahuta. Waipoua and the adjoining forests of Mataraua and Waima make up the largest remaining tract of native forest in Northland. Most of Northland’s ancient forest cover has been lost to saw and fire, plundered for the precious timber of the kauri tree or cleared for farmland. However, the forests are now under the protection of the Department of Conservation.


The world’s tallest fern, growing as high as 30 metres , with great sweeping fronds that are one of the features of Kauri forest. The caudex (trunk) alone is often over 20 metres tall, and the fronds themselves are as much as 6 metres long and over 2 metres wide.

As well as in kauri forests, Mamaku is widespread throughout lowland forest areas around the country, except on the East coast of the South Island, and including Stewart Island and the Chatham Islands.

Ferns are even older than kauri, originating in Gondwanaland some 390-million-years ago, and are considered the oldest life forms in kauri forest. Mamaku fossils have been identified from the Jurassic period, 390-million-years-ago.


MEDICINAL: Gum - a vermifuge (Reed and Brett's Auckland Almanac 1874). 
'The poultices the native doctors use are the convoluted top of the Mamaku.. boiled. This is certainly a strong drawer, and very quick poultice' (O'Carroll 1884). 
Bruised pith a poultice for sore eyes (Kerry-Nicholls 1886). 
Poultice - inflamed breasts (Bell 1890). 
Young shoots scraped, used for poultice for boils (Poverty Bay Federation of Women's Institutes Cookery Calendar; mid 1930s?). 
Pith bruised, used for sore eyes, swollen feet. (Taylor 1848 and 1870 Goldie 1905 ; Adams 1945
Young coiled shoots (pītau) boiled and liquid drunk to assist in removal of placenta (T. Kora, 1941). 
Inner tissue of young fronds, before they have uncurled, used as a poultice for boils. Fronds not cooked (M. Withers 1941). 
Also poisoned hands, saddle sores on horses. Slimy tissue rubbed on wound or scraped and applied as poultice, either raw or boiled (Adams 1945). 
Poultice for boils (Collier 1959). 
Gum useful for diarrhoea (Baber 1887). 
Medicinal plant tasting like cooked potato (Servant 1973)FOOD: 'The tender shoot of this fern tree when cooked, is eaten as well as a portion of the medulla, it is rather insipid but not disagreeable' (Taylor 1847
Inner stem eaten. Described in detail. ' agreeable article of food, slightly sweet'. When cooked, called pitau. 'It is not improbable, that if it were dried it might be used as sago'. Highly prized in winter. (Taylor 1855
Pith of stem extensively eaten, a favourite dish; when dried in the sun, a poor substitute for sago. Undeveloped fronds sometimes boiled (Kirk, in Taylor 1870). 
Baked inner stems and sago-like pith eaten (Colenso 1869a1869b1881). 
'This esculent appeared in thick junks of about a foot in length; it is the mucilaginous pith of the great black tree-fern Cyathea medullaris. It was presented ready dressed, was soft, very sweet to the palate.' (Potts 1879). 
Pith slimy but sweetish. Cut into thin slices and cooked for a long time in the hangi. Slices were threaded on a string of flax and hung up to dry in the sun (Makereti 1938

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Kauri are among the world's mightiest trees, growing to over 50 m tall, with trunk girths up to 16 m, and living for over 2,000 years.
Kauri dieback disease is a relatively new threat, but we can help reduce its spread by being careful and following the signs when visiting kauri forests.


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MEDICINAL: Gum scraped to powder, applied with olive oil to burns (Adams 1945). 
Fresh gum resin chewed as masticatory (Colenso 1869a1869bKirk, in Taylor, 1870Taylor 1855; others). 

Related pharmacology in Brooker, Cambie and Cooper 1987
See Riley 1994 for information on medicinal uses of related plants elsewhere in the world.DYES: Soot used in making blue dye for tattooing (Bell 1890). 
Kauri resin, kāpia, used in burning for soot for tattooing. Process described (Colenso 1892bTaylor 1855) Used to make black paint.

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The nīkau palm is the southernmost member of the palm family, a group that is usually tropical or sub-tropical. There are over 1,100 palm species around the world, including some of the world’s most useful plants such as the oil palm, banana, coconut, and sago palm. Although a number of palms have been introduced to New Zealand and are planted around our towns and gardens, the nīkau palm is our only native palm species.

A nīkau palm usually grows about 10-15 m tall. It is easy to recognise in the bush with its circular trunk, which is ringed with evenly spaced scars from fallen leaves. The fronds are up to 3 m in length.

MEDICINAL: Pith is cooked, eaten for few weeks by expectant mothers - slightly relaxing the bowels, pelvic ligaments (Brett's Guide 1883Goldie 1905Bell 1890
'In the opinion of New Zealanders, this root has medicinal properties...' (Servant 1973). 
Pith used as laxative (Faulkner 1958). 
Related pharmacology in Brooker, Cambie and Cooper, 1987FOOD: Young shoots a favourite food, cooked or raw (Taylor 1847; Kirk, in Taylor 1870Colenso 1869a1869b ; Best 19081942). 
Excellent eating -juicy, succulent, nutty. As obtaining the heart meant killing the plant, not commonly used (Colenso 1881). 
Heart blanched. A favoured food, but not commonly eaten. (Makereti 1938
Heart eaten (Allom, in Earp 1853). 
'the tender shoot is eaten; it tastes somewhat like a nut' (Taylor 1855
'The rito, root (sic) has a very sweet taste...'(Servant 1973
Rito sometimes pickled in vinegar by early settlers (Best 1942) Koata eaten, circular butts of leaves being stripped off until the soft, white, edible inner part is reached. (Best 1903).

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The tallest of New Zealand’s native trees, it grows throughout the country as well as in and near the kauri forests of Tai Tokerau. Sometimes reaching above 65 metres in height, it is never as large as kauri, but is often taller. Found mostly below 600 metres, and often in wet areas near swamps and rivers, it is notable for its buttressed roots and is frequently found in dense groves, especially when most of the trees are younger, as many die as they grow because the trees demand high light levels to survive.


MEDICINAL: An infusion of the wood is highly tonic (Taylor 1855). 
Bark in recipe for lotion to apply to bruises. Infusion of chips in boiling water good tonic for skin diseases (O'Carroll 1884). 
Bark - chewed, causes tingling, numbness of lips. 'Should possess therapeutic properties' (Bell 1890). 
Leaves - decoction used for internal complaints (Kerry-Nicholls 1886). 
Decoction of leaves used for urinary, internal complaints. Medicated vapour baths (Goldie 1905). 
Related pharmacology in Brooker, Cambie and Cooper,1987.FOOD: Berries eaten (Colenso 1869a1869b1881 ; Kirk, in Taylor 1870 ; Best 1908 ; Shortland 1851
Fruit ' a very grateful flavour' (Allom, in Earp 1853). 
'The fruit of this pine is similar to that of the Rimu, its wood and resin also have the same qualities as the former.' (Taylor 1847). 
Fruit found in abundance every other season. 'Sweet, but without flavour.' The resin contains much saccharine matter, which is found in lumps, of a very sweet and bitter taste. (Taylor 1855). 
Wairarapa - described as a white fruit. Probably local (Hokianga) name (Servant 1973). 
Can be used to make spruce beer. Anti-scorbutic (Shortland 1851). 
Berries collected in considerable quantities. ' those of the yew, but not slimy' (Bidwill, in Best 1942). 
Pigeons very fond of berries (Best 1908).DYES: Blue dye, kapara, prepared from soot obtained by burning heart of kahikatea and rimu trees. Used for tattooing (Kerry-Nicholls 1886). 
Resinous veins, kapara, burnt for soot for tattooing. Process described (Colenso 1892b). 
Soot from heartwood (mapara) mixed with oil, used as black paint (Tuta Nihoniho, Ngati-Porou, in Best 1925). 
Process for obtaining soot described by White, ibid.


A common understory tree in kauri forest, taraire can grow to 22 metres and is found throughout the modern kauri range, and as far south a East Cape. Mostly it grows in reasonable quality soils, often close to streams, it produces rich coloured, fat, purple fruit that ripen in late autumn. These are very popular with kūkupa (native wood pigeons), which gorge themselves on the drupes when they near full ripeness.

The relationship between taraire and kūkupa is crucial to the tree, as these birds are the only ones capable of swallowing the fruit and its stone, making it taraire’s the sole distributor.

FOOD: the pulp is sweet, but has too strong a taste of turpentine to be agreeable' (Taylor 1847
Large berries eaten when boiled (Kirk, in Taylor 1855). Large, plum-like fruit, fine-looking but not very gustable. Eaten especially by children (Colenso 1869a).

Bees are attracted to its nectar-laden flowers, and mānuka honey produced from kahikātoa (Leptospermum scoparium) flowers is now a major industry; from being a cheap, everyday honey a few decades ago it now attracts premium prices in New Zealand and overseas, and its production is carefully regulated.


The nectar contains a powerful antibacterial agent, methylglyoxal (MGO), which is the result of the transformation of the saccharide dihydroxyacetone (DHA) into MGO, but exactly how this occurs (and how the levels of the "Unique Manuka Factor" in honey from particular locations might be predicted) is still unknown; this is the subject of intense research at the University of Waikato (where the phenomenon was first detected) and elsewhere.


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