Piwakawaka Mini Te Mära Reo ~ The Language Garden
*Ake [Proto-Polynesian]

Ake, Akeake


Dodonaea viscosa (Sapindaceae)

Other inherited names: Akeake (see separate page)

SE - 29
SE-25, SE-27

This is one of the names that originated in Polynesia before the expansion east to Tahiti and beyond had taken place. The reduplicated form of the word (akeake) has been applied to several different trees -- follow the link above for more information.

(New Zealand) Ake
Location in the Language Garden
The kauri in Traditional Maori Poetry and Proverbs

(New Zealand) Ake

Dodonaea viscosa, known as both ake and akeake in Mäori, is a widely distributed species, occuring in the native floras of tropical, subtropical and warmer temperate regions in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Pacific. In Hawaii it is known as 'a'ali'i, with the name a'e used for another species of the same family, and several other trees. As you can see in the photograph to the right, it has long, narrow green leaves with a bright sheen, clearly marked veins, and wavy margins. There is also a purple-leaved variety.

In New Zealand ake is often used as a hedge or shelter tree in seaside areas, and it occurs naturally in coastal and lowland forests throughout the North and Chatham Islands and as far south as Greymouth on the west and Banks Peninsula on the east in the South Island. The greenish or yellowish male and female flowers are borne abundantly on separate trees, and are winged - there is a good photograph of the winged seed capsule and some information about the tree on the "Bushman's Friend" website.

The hard, extremely durable wood was used by Mäori for making bird spears and weapons, and the leaves were used for scenting oil.

Back to: (New Zealand) Ake
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Location in the Language Garden
The Ake in Mäori Tradition

Location in the Language Garden

There is one ake at the northeastern end of Section 29, just at the edge of the area dominated by the oak tree, two more in Section 27, at the other end of the oak tree, and another just a bit further east in Section 25, all within 10 metres of the main driveway.

Although ake is supposed to a hardy and resilient tree, it is one of the few trees which has definitely not thrived in the language garden! It seems to be very attractive to leaf-chewing insects which feast on the leaves, and lichens colonize the branches and trunks. The surviving trees (four of the 15 or so planted 10 years ago) while definitely alive, all look as if they have seen much better days, with wiry multiple trunks supporting a thinned-out upwardly-branching canopy. In many seaside places akeake is used for shelter in hedges, and if we had clipped our trees instead of leaving them to grow naturally they may have remained bushy. Ake is found among the local indigenous flora, in association with manuka in scrubland on ridges in the Hakarimata Ranges, 2 0r 3 kilometres away on the other side of the Waikato River, so the rather scraggly appearance of our specimens may possibly be the way they are supposed to be.

The last photo in the top batch on the right-hand panel is from an Itallian gardening website, and shows typical akeake seedlings. The ones in Te Mära Reo looked like that for their first two or three years. The one at the bottom is growing in Honolulu, and has signs of the open form of the mature ones in Te Mara Reo, but its leaves are a lighter green.

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(New Zealand) Ake
Location in the Language Garden
Next section:
The Ake in Mäori Tradition


Akeake leaves Ake leaves (TMR, Area 29)

Caption Ake, 11 yrs old (TMR, Area 25)

Caption Ake in pots, Italy

PPN: *ake [A hardwood tree]

Tongan: ake (Hardwood tree - species not yet known)
Tahitian: ae ("A fragrant plant used to perfume oil")
Marquesan: ake ("A variety of banana")
Hawaiian: a'e (Sapindus saponaria; Zantholyxum spp., Xylosma hawaiiense); also a'ea'e A variegated cultivar of banana.
Rarotongan: ake (Dodonaea viscosa)

Caption Young A'ali'i [Dodonaea viscosa], Lyon Arboretum, Honolulu, 2007


The Ake in Maori Tradition

Murdoch Riley notes that the word akerautangi is used to denote the sound of dry ake leaves wailing in the wind, and is also the name of of a child given to Tu, the god of war, as a weapon to fight Rongo, the god of peace and cultivated foods. In the bark of the tree Akerautangi, however, Kahukura, the personification of the rainbow, dwells, put there by Rongo to keep him informed of Akerautangi's intentions (Herbal, p. 116).

This tradition is aluded to in He Waiata Tauhitohito by Uri-Kore of Ngati Porou:

Nä te aha i tukituki te upoko o Tama-ki-te-kapua?
Nä te ake-rautangi, ë, maire matatü,
Te tama a Ruru-tangi-akau e tü i te wao ....
[What was it that crushed the head of Tama-ki-te-kapua?
It was the ake-rautangi, and the enduring maire,
The forest-grown son of Rurutangi-akau.]
[NM 225, Vol 3, pp. 162-3]

Ruru-tangi-akau was the father of Ake-rautangi, the personification of the military uses of the wood of the ake, and also, according to Sir Apirana Ngata's note in Ngä Möteatea, of other woods, such as kahikätoa (Leptospermum scoparium, also called mänuka).

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(New Zealand) Ake
Location in the Language Garden
The Ake in Maori Tradition


References and further reading.

In addition to the works referenced above, J.T. Salmon's The Native Trees of New Zealand and Bruce Clarkson et al., Botany of the Waikato, have been used in preparing these notes (see Bibliography on the Acknowledgements page).

Links -- There are excellent photographs of the flowers and seeds of the ake on the University of Auckland's website. We have not yet photographed any of our own in flower.

Hue flower

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