Medicinal Plants - TATARAMOA, TARAMOA - Rubus cissoides - Bush lawyer
Than that vile twine of prickles fine Which if it touch you, cuts and clings Whene' er you push through briar and bush. - Alfred Domett.
The Maori name means "a heap of prickles" - very apt too. It is a "twiner" rather than a climber.
It attaches itself to trees as it grows upwards by means of thousands of backward pointing spikes or prickles along the midribs of the leaves, which prevent it coming loose from the support, but does not stop upward growth..
I have seen sheep which had been caught up in it and held there despite their struggles until they died of starvation or thirst.
In spite of its hostile appearance, it was a valuable remedy, especially for women.
An infusion of the leaves, drunk while warm, cured a hard, a sore throat, and congestion of the chest. A stronger infusion of the leaves, together with some leaves of korokio, was given as a laxative.
The leaves can be dried and kept to use when needed. For stomach pain the young fresh leaves were chewed before swallowing them.
A Maori woman was often given a vapour bath after child birth. Hot stones were thrown into water in which leaves of the following plants had been steeped: tataramoa, mangeao and kotukutuku.
The woman lay in the hot bath for an hour on the day after confinement, and also on the next day. "If there was haemorrhage, the water was taken internally".
For the removal of the placenta they boiled together tataramoa root, the rhizome of raupo and flax root, and drank this.
Supplejack bark was boiled and the hot water used as a vapour bath to assist in making childbirth easier.
The same liquid was drunk as a purgative for severe abdominal pain. Goldie, in his report, stated that a decoction of boiled roots was drunk to relieve a stoppage of the menses.
There are other varieties of tataramoa. These are low, dense, but rambling bushes, with long, narrow pinnate leaves without spines.
The fruit of these bushes is a yellow berry, sweet and juicy, which can be eaten raw from the bush. Early settlers made jam from these berries.
These bushes flower in October or November, depending on the areas in which they grow, as they are common in both the North and South Islands.
TIKUMU - C elmisia spectabilis - Cotton plant - Shepherd's daisy A member of the large daisy family.
Tikumu is one of sixty celmisia varieties indigenous to New Zealand.
Those daisies are among the most beautiful sub-alpines we have and grow profusely in the high regions of Otago and the MacKenzie Country, covering the mountain slopes in November so thickly with their white flowers that you think a patch of snow has been left unmelted.
The leaves come from a central rosette. It is recognised by the narrow, stiffly erect and furrowed leaves, eight inches long, which are pale green on top while the underside is covered with silky white or cream hairs.
The purpose of these hairs is to store moisture, which is necessary owing to the infertile sparse soil of the upland pasture where it grows.
This celmisia has single white daisy-like flowers with numerous petals, and is carried on stiff, woolly, silvery stalks well above the leaves.
The Maoris used the sap from the leaves to heal an abscess in the mouth.
The early settlers and gold diggers of Otago found the leaves a good substitute for tobacco, and when smoking these leaves discovered that they were very good for sufferers from asthma.
TOETOE KAKAHO - Cortaderia toetoe - Feathery grass
This is the largest and most beautiful of the native grasses, with tall, white, feathery plumes on straight, stiff, brown stems which stand four feet or more above the reed-like leaves.
The plumes are between one to three feet in length and bloom in the spring and early summer. Toetoe grows everywhere in New Zealand but is most often seen near the sea coast, or on the edges of swamps, and usually in groups.
In cases of severe burns the Maoris made a mixture of water and of the ashes of powdered charcoal of toetoe and covered the burnt areas with the paste as a poultice.
For diarrhoea the lower parts of the young leaves were eaten (Goldie). The juice from the lower part of the stem was used to clean the tongues of babies. For kidney trouble adults chewed and swallowed the young stems.
The feathery plumes had an important use too. They were stripped from their stems and packed against wounds, acting mechanically to stop bleeding (the same principle as was used by the Scots in ancient times when they packed moss on their wounds after a sword fight or battle).
Before the carved panels of the Maori houses were evolved, toetoe stems were used as wall screens and ceiling linings. Later the flowering stalks were used for decorative panels between the carved figures.
The plumes stay fresh for months and today are used for indoor winter decoration.
TUTAEKOAU - Apium australe Maori celery - green celery, prostrate parsley
As the name implies, this is a flat, creeping plant, the leaves being very like non-curled parsley in appearance.
It is found on the sea shore everywhere in New Zealand and was used in many steam baths by the Maori people.
It has diuretic and anti-scorbutic properties, and for this reason Captain Cook had great quantities of the herb gathered and cooked for his crew.
With regard to this plant, the following extract from the diary of Captain Cook is of much interest, as his observances of Maori customs were so explicit and accurate.
This was written at Queen Charlotte Sound on 9 November 1774 on his second voyage in the Resolution: In the afternoon a party of us went ashore into one of the coves, where there were two families of the natives variously employed; some sleeping, some making-mats, others roasting fish and fir roots, and one girl, I observed, was heating stones.
Curious to know what they were for, I remained near her. As soon as the stones were made hot, she took them out of the fire, and gave them to an old woman, who was sitting in the hut.
She placed them in a heap, laid over them a handful of green celery, and over that a coarse mat, and then squatted herself down, on her heels, on top of all; thus making a kind of Dutch warming pan, on which she sat as close as a hare on her seat.
I should hardly have mentioned this operation, if I had thought it had no other view than to warm the old woman's backside.
I rather suppose it was intended to cure some disorder she might have on her, which the steam arising from the green celery might be a specific for.
I was led to think so by there being hardly any celery in the place, we having gathered it long before; and grass of which there was great plenty, would have kept the stones from burning the mat full as well, if that had been all that was meant.
Besides the woman looked to me sickly, and not in a good state of health.