Friday, March 6, 2009

A Treasured Plant

Flax - Phormium tenax. Feb 2009. Ajr

This is harakeke or flax. It is a member of the lily family and has been used by Maori for generations as a vital fibre resource. Long ago Maori often had a pa harakeke, or flax plantation, close to their marae. The roots were used in the concoction of treatments for skin complaints and the older outside leaves were cut and used for weaving. Different species were favoured by different iwi for their strength, softness, colour and fibre content and once the muka (fibre) had been separated from the green flesh with a shell and pounded to make it soft and pliable, it was woven into ropes for bird snares, fishing lines, nets, sandals and clothing. The full leaves, either fresh or dried, were used to make kete (baskets) and other woven items - and still are of course.

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