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Phormium sp. Tīhore. Flax cultivar or class.

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Various writers describe tīhore as a class or type of flax; sometimes as a particular cultivar.

Notes from the Flax Commissioners Report 1870, 1871:

1) Kelly, New Plymouth. Unsure whether the name of a plant or a class. Probably a class.

2) Armstrong Christchurch. Leaves linear, very strong. Edges dark red.

3) Heaphy, East Coast and Bay of Plenty. Used for fishing nets and cordage. Best fibre for mill purposes.

4) Kelly, Taranaki. Light green leaf with wide black edge. p.9, 1870. Probably name of class of flax of highest value (includes Tāpoto, Tākirikau)

5) Hutton, in lecture to Auckland Institute 12/7/1870; Leaves stiff, erect, narrow, never drooping at the tip, olive green, glaucous below, points very acute or cuspidate, pink at the butt. Flower stalk 9" to 10" high, and 1 inch in diameter. Pod erect or inclined; seldom flowers, and still more rarely seeds. Plant seldom over 6 ft in height. Grows in rich, dry alluvial land, never in swampy places. I have never seen it except where planted by the Māoris. I have here applied the name to that variety called Tīhore by the Māoris throughout the Waikato, and which is probably identical with the Oue and Tāpoto. It is best distinguished by its narrow, tapering, sharp pointed leaves and erect, close habit. It grows so thickly together that I obtained 186 sets for planting from two bushes. Average breaking strain of leaves = 48 lbs. (cf Wharariki = 34 lbs)

6) Henry Field in Wanganui wrote a letter on flax to one of the Commissioners, John Hall:

"I therefore turned my attention to ascertaining the best varieties of the flax, and during my walks in the neighbourhood I sampled from time to time, and at various seasons of the year, several hundreds of bushes growing in the Native cultivations. I found that though, as a rule, the fibre tore out of the leaf more easily during spring and autumn, when the growth of the leaves was most vigorous than either during the summer drought or the dead time of winter, yet there was a very vast difference, even among the cultivated bushes, as to length, proportion, and colour of fibre, as well as to the readiness with which it could be torn from the leaf.

After satisfying myself that one particular bush growing by itself in an old deserted cultivation up the Wanganui gully was better than any other I could find, I, when winter arrived, brought a few fans of it and planted it in my garden here, where they are still growing, though now getting decrepid with age. They are of the Tihore species, and of the particular variety called by Waitotara natives Wharariki (little fellow), from the bushes seldom exceeding five feet in height. The leaves, when the bush is in its prime, are fully four inches broad, and will yield a ribbon of fibre from three feet to three feet six inches long by two inches wide, from each half of the leaf." Samples enclosed, and a description of the process used by Māori to hand dress flax.

"I fancy, however, that the Natives higher up the Waitotara River have flax even superior to this, as some persons who had been many years in the Colony, and who formed part of the force which lately went up that river, were so struck with the appearance of some hanks of fibre prepared for weaving which they came across, that they brought a sample away with them, and I think it is superior to any I have ever before seen. ... finer and whiter.. and the colour struck me as being of a bluer or more silvery white than I remembered to have noticed previously"

Selwyn 1847: Tīhore = flax scraped with a fingernail only. Varieties include paritanewha, ratawa, kōhunga, rerehape, oue.

Best 1942: a superior variety.

Williams 1971: The best varieties of Phormium tenax of which the fibre can be stripped from the refuse without the use of a shell.

Andersen 1926: a very strong fibre

Drysdale and McGregor 1910: Department of Agriculture variety trials at Weraroa. Grown from seed.

Buchanan 1868: "The tīhore, or silky flax, cultivated in the North Island by the Māoris, is a finer-leaved variety, and having long, narrow, rounded and twisted drooping capsules, might be introduced to Otago if fine silky fibre was essential."

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28 May 2007
20 June 2020
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