Piwakawaka Mini Te Mära Reo ~ The Language Garden
*Lata ~ *Rata
Metrosideros species, [Myrtaceae].
Possibly from Proto Polynesian *Lata through Proto Western Fijiic *Lata; more likely from Proto Central Eastern Polynesian *Rata


Metrosideros collina (Polynesia and Vanuatu) and the plants grouped together as M. polymorpha (Hawaii) are species very closely related to the pohutukawa (M. excelsa), and probably originated from seed blown to various Polynesian islands from New Zealand. The name itself could possibly have originated in Fiji -- Fijian languages have two words which may be cognate with the Polynesian ones -- lato, denoting varieties of the widespread M. collina, is the stronger candidate despite the difference in the final vowels, and lata, denoting the herb Plectranthus forsteri (Lamiaceae), which despite the name does not seem to have anything in common with the Metrosideros species. Within Polynesia, there seems to be alteration in the form of the word, with some languages having cognates with long vowels and others with short vowels. Tahitian has words with both, and it is likely that rätä as the name of the Tahitian chestnut Inocarpus fagifer had an independent origin but was carried to Rarotonga and Aotearoa as a synonym for the similar-sounding rata.

Reflexes (CEPn):
Tahitian: Rata (Metrosideros collina [Myrtaceae]); Rätä (Inocarpus edulis [Fabaceae])
Marquesan: Ata (Eugenia rariflora [Myrtaceae])
Rarotongan: Rätä (Metrosideros collina [Myrtaceae])
Maori: Rätä (Metrosideros umbellata & M. robusta [Myrtaceae])

Related Words: It is possible that Fijian lato "Metrosideros collina" is cognate with the Eastern Polynesian variants of *Rata, which would imply a Proto Western Fijiic/Polynesian origin for the source word.

N Rata
Metrosideros polymorpha (Hawaii) -- almost identical to the Polynesian M. collina

Photograph: R.B.

Hue flower

Te Mära Reo, c/o Benton Family Trust, "Tumanako", RD 1, Taupiri, Waikato 3791, Aotearoa / New Zealand
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