Harakeke Wooden Puzzle with Image Tray
Harakeke is unique to New Zealand and is one of our oldest plant species found throughout the country. Harakeke grows up to 3 metres high and its flower stalks can reach up to four metres. It has seedpods that stand upright from the stems. Harakeke flowers can vary in colour from yellow to red to orange.
Harakeke is told in Maori folklore with the strength of the muka fibre in particular in the exploits of “Maui” who fished up “Te Ika a Maui”, the North Island, using muka as the fishing line and who snared the sun in a fishing net made from muka.
Harakeke Trade: The first European traders called Harakeke "Flax" because its fibres were similar to that of true flax found in other parts of the world. By 1830, Harakeke had become a major export commodity. This was an exclusively Maori enterprise, as the Harakeke was grown by local Iwi, processed to release its muka (fibre), and shipped off to Sydney where it was made into rope. The overseas demand for flax eventually subsided. Karakia (prayers) are recited before harvesting Harakeke giving thanks and seeking protection. The reverence given to the Harakeke plant is also shown in the tikanga (rituals) around working with flax. Tikanga applied to Harakeke include saying a karakia (prayer) before cutting and also involved at every step of the weaving process. Many Maori continue to adhere to those protocols today carrying on the traditions of their ancestors.
Traditional Uses of Harakeke: Harakeke was an important fibre plant to Maori. Different varieties were specially grown for their strength, softness, colour and fibre content. The uses of the Harakeke fibre were numerous and varied. Kakahu, (clothing), Whariki (mats), Kono (plates to eat off), Kete (baskets), Taura (ropes), bird snares, lashings, fishing lines and Kupenga (nets) were all made from Harakeke. Other parts of the Harakeke plant were also used. The nectar from was used as a sweetener. Native birds also enjoy the nectar from the Harakeke. Harakeke has many Rongoa (medicinal) uses. The sticky sap or gum that Harakeke produces, was applied to wounds and used for toothache. Harakeke leaves were used in binding broken bones and matted leaves were used as dressings. Harakeke root juice was routinely applied to wounds as a disinfectant. Today, Harakeke is used in soaps, hand crèmes, shampoos and a range of other cosmetics whilst Harakeke seeds and Harakeke seed oil are used for flavouring food, and other culinary purposes.