8 things you may not know about to–tara

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Notebook -

• ‘To’ means stem or stalk; ‘tara’ means spiky or sharp.

• Tō­tara was the first New Zealand plant to have its Māori name for­mally adopted as the species name.

• Tō­tara are conifers. In the rest of the world these are mostly short trees, but in NZ we have the most enor­mous and unique conifers found on Earth, in­clud­ing tō­tara, rimu, kahikatea, matai and miro.

• Tō­tara was the im­por­tant tree to Māori in their ev­ery­day life, with the wood used in carv­ings, and the bark shaped into stor­age con­tain­ers (patua and pōhā) for pre­serv­ing food.

• Nearly all of the most trea­sured carv­ings in New Zealand are made from tō­tara.

• Māori ear­marked trees 200-300 years ahead of time as po­ten­tial waka. Bark would be re­moved along one side to stop the core of the tree grow­ing. Edges would con­tinue to grow, leav­ing a hol­lowed-out tree cen­turies later that could then be worked into a waka.

• It can take a cou­ple of years for a seed to get to a few cen­time­tres in height in a for­est sit­u­a­tion; the av­er­age adult tō­tara is 20-25m high.

• Old tō­tara posts and stumps are hav­ing their heart­wood har­vested for a com­pound called to­tarol which has an­tibac­te­rial and an­timi­cro­bial prop­er­ties and is the rea­son why the wood is re­sis­tant to rot­ting. •

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