Copy a link to this page Cite this record

Podocarpus totara. Tōtara.

Name document
Fishing and Hunting
Show more

Click to collapse Māori names Info

TŌTARATe riu o tāne,  so called because most canoes fashioned from its timber (Best 1907); 

amoka (South Island term. Williams 1971).

The following terms for types of totara, bark, wood etc are recorded in Best 1908, 1942. Used by Tuhoe.  

Male tree: karaka used by Matatua Māori

Female tree: kōtukutuku Thinner bark resembles fuchsia, hence the name.

Bark of male tree: tuanui. Thick, peels off in long strips. It is the only kind valued. Matatua term. (Best).

Inner bark of male tree: rangiurakiri used by Matatua Māori. But Best 1942 records kiri amoko as outer bark of tōtara and mānuka.

Heartwood: taikura, taikākā, rangiura (Best 1942); kaikākā, whatu toto - red-coloured sound heart-wood.

Sapwood: taitea (generic term).

Honeycombed wood: matakupenga, kaikākā, tātarapō

Lighter coloured wood: komako. Soon becomes light and dry.

Timber pitted with small holes (dozy): kakapō, tātarapō, kaikākā (west coast term)

Click to collapse Food Info

Fruit eaten. (Colenso 1868a, 1868b, 1880 ; Best 1942).

Click to collapse Fishing and hunting Info

Preferred tree for canoe making.

"The wood of this noble pine is red, hard, and durable, but brittle; it is preferred for canoes, and it is not unusual to see them more than seventy feet long, with a width of five or six feet, formed from a single log" (Taylor 1855)

Used for ornamental carved work of canoe sterns (Colenso 1868a).

Small corrugated water vessels made of green bark, used in catching kereru (Colenso 1892b). Bark canoes unknown among Matatua Māori (Best 1942).

In South Westland, the tōtara forests of Maitahi and Makawhio valleys provided ready source of logs for canoe building. Outriggers usually 42 ft long, with 4 ft beam (measured outstretched arms, fingertip to fingertip). Smaller canoe of 30 ft put alongside, lashed together with a sturdy floor. Sails of woven flax. Used oars rather than paddles for long sea voyages down to Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) (Madgwick 1992).

Click to collapse Domestic Info

Troughs, trays. Bark skilfully made up into neat vessels for holding and carrying of water (Colenso 1868a ; Best 1942).

Bark used to cover kelp bags used for preserved muttonbirds, poha-titi (Shortland 1851).

Dry inner bark (rangiura) used to make a scoop or short handled shovel called a koko (Best 1927).

Vessels called papa and patua made of tōtara bark; papa contained preserved birds, patua - water; also used for stone boiling (Best 1902).

Wallace 1989 found 16 bowls, 2 paddles, 4 adze helves, an eel club, a teka made of tōtara among museum artefacts he tested.

Click to collapse Construction Info

Major timber tree. Housing, bridges, fencing, ornamental. Resists rot.(Colenso 1868b). (N.B. Details on colonial timber uses generally not part of this database).

Bark much used as a covering for houses. (Taylor 1855)

Carvings in chiefs" houses (Colenso 1868a).

Used in construction of storehouses (Best 1916).

Timber used for pā stockades - durable, easily worked (Best 1927).

Click to collapse Medicinal Info

Inner bark boiled with mānuka, liquid kept in bottle for week till becomes sweetish. Used as a febrifuge (Bell 1890).

Infusion of the bitter leaves used by bushmen for stomach troubles (Kirk 1869)

Wood smoke - skin disease, women"s venereal disease. Outer dry bark used for splints.(Goldie 1904; Best 1906).

In Urewera, person sits over a small, smouldering fire of tōtara chips for piles ( Best 1905).

Bark used for splints with lower parts of stout green flax leaves (Colenso 1868a ; Brett"s Guide 1883).

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

Click to collapse Chemistry Info

Chemical constituents in leaves, heartwood, bark examined. Listed in Cambie 1976, 1988 with references.

Click to collapse Proverbs Info

Sayings concerning tōtara in Best 1942, pp 106-107. See also section in Best 1907, p.230.

"Ruia taitea. kia tu ko taikaka anake. Shake off the sap-wood, and let the hard heart-wood only stand. In a tōtara tree.. the taitea is the outer, white or sap-wood, which soon decays, and near the centre is the taikaka or hardest wood. Meaning: Let the common people and children stay at home, and the warrioirs only go to fight." (Colenso 1879: 137) Rae tōtara. Forehead as hard as the tōtara wood. Spoken of a liar; and of an unabashed, shameless person. Equivalent to  English Brazen-face. (ibid: 146)

Click to collapse Pastime Info

In Best 1925: In Waiapu, thin bark used in construction of wooden trumpets, pukaea. Among Ngati-Porou, sometimes used to make gongs - pahu (Tuta Nihoniho). Use of hollow trees as gongs. Famous `sounding tree" at Te Kakau (on old bushtrack from Ruatahuna to Maunga-pohatu, a hollow tōtara called Tōtara-pakopako. Also one near Te Apu, Te Whaiti district. Captured by Whitmore in 1869 to prevent alarm being sounded ( p.301).

Click to collapse Related resources Info

Click to collapse Metadata Info

28 May 2007
1 July 2020
Click to go back to the top of the page