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Sonchus oleraceus. Rauriki. Pūhā. Sow thistle.

Name document
Fishing and Hunting

Click to collapse Māori names Info

RAURIKIpūhā (often pronounced buha in the extreme south) ), pūwhāpororua.

Taylor 1848 also lists kōrau (usually turnips), poronea [sic.], pūwa, puroa [sic.], aotea. Can refer to greens generally. "The pororua was the old New Zealand indigenous variety (or species) of sow-thistle (thistle). Taylor seems to be referring to greens in general. 

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Click to collapse Food Info

Listed as cultivated by Solander in 1769, "in graminosis et cultis".

"the sowthistle springs up spontaneously in every spot which has been cultivated, and is generally used as a vegetable by the natives.(Taylor 1847).

Green tops eaten (Kirk, in Taylor 1870).

Preparation and use as food described in Colenso 1868a, 1868b, 1880; Best 1942.

Leaves widely eaten as greens. Eels or kokopu covered with pūwhā or mauku leaves before cooking ( Best 1902).

"The Hauhaus, when compelled to use cooked sowthistle, found to their surprise they did not lose condition on this spare diet". (Potts 1879)

Beattie told of two ways to prepare pūhā. In one the stems were placed in an ipu and pounded to get the bitter white juice or waiu out of them. Stalks then eaten raw like the pakeha eats cress. (Informant an old man born on Ruapuke Is). Further north the pūhā was gathered put with eel or wild pig in a whena or tapora in an umu. The thistle and the flesh blended well, gave one another additional relish. The sour or bitter juice squeezed out and thrown away but sometimes when people lazy left it in. "Nowadays the pūhā is boiled in European fashion just like the cabbage"

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The juice of sow thistles and poporo (Solanum) used to size canoes before painting (Barstow, quoted in Best 1925).

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Juice expressed and drunk for haemorrhage in childbirth (Bell 1890).

Decoction (with kopakopa, clover, salt) to expel placenta. Decoction, with Disphyma australe, used locally for boils (Goldie 1904 ; Best 1906).

Medicinal plant ... "pleasant and refreshing" (Servant 1973.) [NB Servant writes name as "pua", which editor D. Simmons translates as the woodrose, Dactylanthus taylori. This is almost certainly an error. Ed.]

Anti-scorbutic (Cook).

Used for scrofulous sores and as a drink for stomach complaints (Taylor 1870; Kerry-Nicholls 1886).

Leaves picked so that sap exuded. When thickened, picked off and formed into a ball for chewing. The bitter taste gradually went. Sap also chewed with Pittosporum gum. Gums passed down through generations (see section in Best 1942, 1902).

The succulent stems contained a bitter milky juice which came to the surface when the flower tops picked. "This was left on a sunny day for a few hours, then gathered between the thumb and first finger, adding the thick creamy mass of several plants together. ..used as a sort of chewing gum called pia or ngau, which tasted very bitter at first. But after a little chewing the bitterness disappeared, and this gum was much enjoyed , especially by the women, who vied with each other in seeing who could make her pia crack the loudest" (Makereti 1938)

A blood-purifier; anti-scorbutic and slightly laxative. A Māori man told me once that if people ate rauriki daily, no-one would ever have anything the matter. (K. Pickmere 1940).

Leaves crushed until wet with milky fluid. Applied, bound on cuts to prevent poisoning. (Adams 1945).

Related pharmacology and chemistry in Brooker, Cambie and Cooper 1987.

See Riley 1994 for information on medicinal uses of related plants elsewhere in the world.

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"Ka katokato au i te pororua! I am going about gathering, bit by bit, the bitter leaves of the sow-thistle. Meaning: I hear nothing but bitter words against me everywhere." (Colenso 1879: 123)

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Discussion on ceremonial use of plant in Best 1898:631

"The puwha (sometimes 'pūhā') used in this ceremony has been the source of much tribulation to me. Some assert that it is the common edible puwha that is used; others that the term is applied to the kohukohu and other small plants. Yet again I have been informed that it is a generic term for whatever sacred food is used in the ceremony... This puwha is also used in other whakanoa ceremonies... "

Best goes on to describe other ceremonial uses of puwha, including the long-leaved puwha.

Click to collapse Notes Info

Uses described here can refer to other Sonchus species.

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28 May 2007
2 July 2020
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