In the past decade we’ve planted over 9000 native seedlings at Whenua Matua, our vineyard in Upper Moutere These include many taonga (treasured) plants that have traditional value as weaving materials, for medicinal use or as food sources.
Among these taonga species is toetoe, a giant tussock grass and New Zealand's largest native grass. Toetoe are an iconic part of the New Zealand landscape. Most New Zealanders recognise the plant, and many will remember playing with the flowery stems as children.
Māori have long valued toetoe and used almost every part of the plant –from the leaves and kākaho (flower stems) to its feathery plumes – in one way or another.
Leaves were used to make baskets, kites, mats, wall linings and roof thatching. The hollow kākaho were used as shafts for hunting arrows, straws, pipes and even frames for kites. Kākaho are still used today in tukutuku – decorative wall panels around the walls of wharenui, meeting houses.
Many native plants also were used in rongoā Māori – traditional Māori healing – including toetoe. Various parts of toetoe have been used to stop bleeding and treat a range of ailments including diarrhoea, bladder, kidney complaints, and burns.
As if that’s not enough for one plant to offer - its seeds are also a valuable food source for birds, and it provides shelter for native species such as skinks and gecko.
Isn’t it amazing what one humble looking plant can provide?
Do you have any special plants where you live? Tell us about them in the comments. Why are they special to you? What makes them unique?