Index to Proto-Polynesian, Māori and Botanical Names

Introductory Note
[Skip to list of names]

The table on this page lists the plant names known to have been brought to Aotearoa from Polynesia by the first explorers and settlers. The modern standard [Māori Language Commission] orthography is used for the Māori words - see the Introduction to the language page in the "origins" set for more information about how modern words in other Polynesian languages and reconstructed words are written.

The number in square brackets indicates the ultimate origin of the name, from Proto-Austronesian ([1]) to Proto-Rarotongan/Maori ([12]) - these stages in the development of Māori are also outlined in the introduction to this set of pages. They are, briefly (and of course skipping a lot of intermediate stages in the first few thousand years):

[1] Proto-Austronesian (At least 5,000 years ago)
[2] Proto-Malayo-Polynesian (Centred on the Philippines & Sulawesi)
[3] Proto-Oceanic (Dispersal along the New Guinea coast into the Pacific - "Near Oceania")
[4] Proto-Eastern Oceanic (Entry into "Remote Oceania")
[5] Proto-Central Pacific (Common source of Rotuman, some Micronesian, Fijian and Polynesian languages)
[6] Proto-South Central Pacific (Common source of Eastern Fijian and Polynesian languages)
[7] Proto-Polynesian (Centred on Tonga & Samoa & Tuvalu jointly)
[8] Proto-Nuclear Polynesian (Centred on Samoa & Tuvalu)
[9] Proto-Eastern Polynesian ("Remote Polynesia", including Rapanui)
[10] Proto-Central Eastern Polynesian (Centred on Tahiti and the Marquesas)
[11] Proto-Tahitic (Centred on Tahiti, effectively the last stage, except for)
[12] Proto-Rarotongan-Maori (The ancestral language of Rarotonga, also carried to Aotearoa)

Any arrangement of the words would create difficulties, so we just settled on "oldest" to ÿoungest" for this list (the original sequence is revised from time to time in the light of new evidence, such as the material in The Lexicon of Proto Oceanic, Volume 3) -- use the ^F (find) command on your browser if you are searching for a particular word (including the botanical binomials [scientific names]). Also note that the Proto-Polynesian name (or the equivalent from the earliest stage after that, for more recent words) is the one listed in the first column; this is actually stage 7 in our scheme, so the original form of words in stages 1-6 might have been different; you will find information about that in the entry for the Proto-Polynesian reconstruction.

Names that seem to have been inherited in a modified form incorporating an older element have been listed separately at the level the new form seems to have appeared, so, for example, pōhutukawa, which incorporates the ancient element *futu (Stage 1), seems to have originated as a separate name in Rarotonga, so in the list below it is included with the words from the final stage (12) before Aotearoa's linguistic isolation.

As the pages are written, the corresponding words in the list will be hyperlinked to them. Those which are written in bold type have entries on line; some of these hyperlinked pages with have only basic information at present, others will be quite substantial. These pages are also colour coded, standard hyperlink blue type for plant names represented in the real-world garden, and COLOUR for those which are confined to the virtual garden. Names represented by species which are currently growing in the physical language garden but for which pages have not yet been written are listed in bold black type. For kumara and taro varieties, the linked names will be in italics -- this means that although some plants of this species are in the garden, that particular variety (as far as we know) is not. As the relevant pages are written, more Maori names containing elements inherited from earlier Polynesian plant names will be added to the list (we are still coming across previously overlooked examples!). Botanical names also require revision, as new research in genetics sometimes requires changes in the way plants are grouped in genera and families, and occasionally new names for species as well.

[Back to Introduction]

Proto-Polynesian Name
Māori Name
Species bearing Māori name
1. P. Austronesian origin    
*fara [1] whara



Astelia spp.
Phormium tenax
Astelia banksii

Astelia hastatum
Astelia banksii
Astelia solandri
Phormium cookianum
Phormium tenax

Astelia banksii

*futu [1]

Ascarina lucida
Nothofagus fusca
Nothofagus truncata
Metrosideros excelsa
*lama [1]
*lama [Derivatives]


"fish at night with torches" [a word once associated with the coconut (niu)]

Lophomyrtus bullata [Ramarama]
Pseudiwintera colorata [~ Horopito]
2. P. Malayo-Polynesian  
*kanawa [2] kanawa [Variety of] Ipomoea batatas
*limu [2]~[3] rimu [seaweeds]
Dacrydium cupressinum
*qufi [2] uwhi, uhi Dioscorea alata
*talo [2] taro Colocasia antiquora
*toa [2] toatoa Phyllocladus trichomanoides
*faqa whā "stalk, stem" [a word once associated with the coconut (niu)]
*fau [2] whau
Entelea arborescens
Pseudopanax arboreum
*futi [2] hutihuti [Variety of] Ipomoea batatas
*kanen kano, kakano "seed" [a word once associated with the coconut (niu)]
*kie [2] *kiekie [8]~[2] Freycinetia banksii
*malo [2] maro [A girdle, kilt or skirt, from aute and other fibre]
*niu [2] niu [Cocos nucifera -- The name was remembered but acquired a different meaning in Aotearoa]
*kulu [2] kuru [Artocarpus altilis; in Aotearoa, a tree in Hawaiki remembered in oral histories]
*piu [2] piupiu Pneumatopteris pennigera
Blechnum discolor
Blechnum procerum

Blechnum novaezelandiae
*tī [2] *tī (tii) Cordyline australis [tī kouka]
Cordyline pumilo [tī koraha]

Cordyline banksii [tī ngahere, tī parae]
Cordyline fruticosa

[Cordyline rubra]
[Back to Introduction]
3. P. Oceanic
*fue [3]~[8] hue Lagenaria siceraria
*kafika [3] kahika

[see links opposite]
Metrosideros excelsa
Leptospermum scoparium
Dacrycarpus dacrydioides
[kahika, kahikatea]
Metrosideros fulgens [kahikahika]
Metrosideros robusta [rātā (flower)]
Libocedrus plumosa [kahikawaka]
*kawaRi [3] kawa, kawakawa Macropiper excelsum
*fenu whenu "strand of a garment " [a word once associated with the coconut (niu)]
*kafa kaha "rope made from harakeke fibre" [a word once associated with the coconut (niu)]
*kalaka [3] karaka Corynocarpus laevigata
Streblus heterophyllus [karakariki]
*tawa [3] tawa
Beilschmiedia tawa
Planchonella costata
*pau [3] pau Nestegis cunninghamii
*pele [3] pere Alseuosmia macrophylla
Alseuosmia linarifolia
*rama [3] ramarama Lophomyrtus bullata
Pseudowintera colorata
*rega [3] rengarenga Arthropodium cirratum
*pala [3] para Psitana salicina
Also tubers of various orchid, fern & tī spp.
*aka [3] aka, aka- Metrosideros albiflora
Metrosideros perforata
[also many species with aka as the initial element in the name, e.g. akapuka, Griselinia lucida]
*kaka [3] kaka "fibre, garment" [a word once associated with the coconut (niu)]
*mako [3] *mako, makomako Aristotelia serrata
*maqota [3] māota Dysoxylum spectabile
*pua [3]~[5] pua [Now a word for flowers generally]
Clematis paniculata [Puapua]
*tawahi [3] tawai, tawhai Nothofagus menziesii
Nothofagus fusca [Tawhairaunui]
Nothofagus solandri [Tawhairauriki]
Nothofagus truncata [Tawhairaunui]
Phyllocladus trichomanoides [Tāwaiwai]
4. P. Eastern Oceanic
*koka [4] koka [Listed in dictionaries as "an edible plant"; also, old, dried leaves of Phormium tenax]
*milo [4] miro Prumnopitys ferruginea
*sinu [4] tauhinu Pomaderris phylicaefolia
Cassinia leptophylla
5. P. Central Pacific
*polo [5] poporo, poroporo Solanum aviculare
Solanum laciniatum
Solanum nodiflorum
*puapua [5] puapua Clematis paniculata
*lewa [5] rewa, rewarewa Knightia excelsa
[Back to Introduction]
6. P. South Central Pacific
*falafala [6] wharawhara Astelia banksii
*hongohongo [6] ongaonga Urtica ferox
Plagianthus regius [houi ongaonga]
*kaute [6] aute Broussonettia papyrifera
*manuka [6] mānuka Leptospermum scoparium
Kunzea ericoides

Leucopogon ericoides [Mānuka rauriki]
*ngēngē [6] ngenge [Listed in Williams' dictionary as "a shrub"; no further information]
*kalo [6] karo Pittosporum crassifolium
Pittosporum ralphii
*kofe [6] kohe Dysoxylum spectabile
*kuta [6] kuta
Eleocharis sphacelata
Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani
*lata [6] rātā Metrosideros robusta
Metrosideros umbellata
*luna [6] runa Rumex flexuosus
Plagianthus divaricatus
*nefe [6] nehenehe [Now a general word for "forest"]
*pōniu [6] poniu Rorippa islandica
*takataka [6] *takatakapō [Variety of] Colocasia antiquora
7. P. Polynesian
*ake [7] ake, akeake

Dodonaea viscosa
Olearia traversii
Olearia avecenniaefolia

*fausele [7] houhere Hoheria populnea
*falafala [7]



Astelia banksii
Astelia banksii
Collospermum hastatum
Astelia banksii
Astelia solandri

*fāpuku [7] Te Hāpuku Progenitor of Cetacians and Tree Ferns:
Cyathea medullaris

Cyathea dealbata

Cyathea smithii
*fauuqi [7] houi Hoheria glabrata
Plagianthus regius [houi ongaonga]
*hulufe, sulufe [7] aruhe, rauaruhe Pteridium esculentum
*kava [7] kawa, kawakawa Macropiper excelsim
*kisi, *kisikisi [7] kōkihi Tetragona tetragonioides
*koli [7] korikori Ranunculus insignis
*kōfufu [7] kōhuhu Pittosporum tenuifolium
*mahuku [7] mauku, mouku Cordyline pumilo
Asplenium bulbiferum

Asplenium gracillimum
*mangefo [7] mangeao Litsea colicaris
*maile [7] maire Nestegis cunninghamii
Leionema nudum [mairehau]
Nestegis lanceolata [maire raunui]
Nestegis montana [maire kotae, maire rōroro]
Mida salicifolia [maire taiki]
Syzygium maire [maire tawake]
*mamangi [7] māmāngi Coprosma repens
Coprosma arborea
*manapau [7] manapau [Tree name mentioned in oral histories.]
*manono [7] manono Coprosma grandifolia
*masele [7] māereere [Listed in Williams'dictionary as "a fern", no further information.]
*mati [7] māti [Fruit of] Fuchsia excorticata
*mohuku [7] mauku, mouku Asplenium bulbiferum
Asplenium gracillimum
*mutie [7] mātie Poa billardierei [ex Autrofescuta littoralis]
*pakilangi [7] pakirangi [Listed in Williams'dictionary as "a tree", no further information.]
*palatao [7] paretao Asplenium obtusatum
Asplenium oblongifolium
*pilita [7] pirita Ripoogonum scandens
*poa [7] poapoa Parsonia heterophylla
*ponga [7] ponga Cyathea dealbata
*pongi [7] pongi [Variety of] Colocasia antiquora
*puka [7] puka, pukapuka Griselinia lucida [puka, akapuka, kōpuka]
Meryta sinclairii [puka]
Syzygium maire [puka]
Brachyglottis repanda [pukapuka]
Griselinia littoralis [kāpuka]
*pukatea [7] pukatea Laurelia novaezelandiae
*saumi [7] Haumia [The deity associated with wild edible plants, e.g. the root of Pteridium esculentum]
*siapo [7] Matahiapo [The Proto-Polynesian root denotes the paper mulberry, Broussonettia papyfera]
*talaqamoa [7] taramoa, tātaraamoa Rubus cissoides
Rubus schmidelioides
Rubus australis
*taputoki [7] tītoki Alectryon exelsum
*tawali [7] tawari Ixerbia brexioides
*tewe [7] tewe [Fermented juice of] Coriaria arborea
*tō [7] [Stem of] Typha angustifolia
*toi [7] ? tōī Cordyline indivisa
*tutu [7] tutu Coriaria arborea
[Back to Introduction]
8. P. Nuclear Polynesian
*fune [8] hune "Pappus of raupō, Typha orientalis"
*kaualiki [8] kawariki Coprosma grandifolia
*kauli [8] kauri Agathis australis
*kiekie [8]~[2] kiekie Freycinetia banksii
*kolopuka [8] koropuka Gaultheria antipoda
*maqafai [8] māwhai Cassytha paniculata
*māfaqi [8] māwhai Sicyos angulata
*maika [8] māika, māikaika, māmāika Arthropodium cirrhatum [Māika kā]
Orthoceras strictum
Orthoceras novaeseelandiae
Microtis unifolia
Thelymitra pulchella
Thelymitra longifolia
Thelymitra pauciflora
*nau [8] nau Lepidium oleraceum
Coprosma foetidissima [naupiro]
Angelica montana [naupiro]
*malili [8] *māriri Unripe fruit of Beilschmielia tawa [tawa]
9. P. Eastern Polynesian
*hue [9] hue Lagenaria siceraria
*toromiro [9] toromiro Prumnopitys ferruginea
*hapuku [9] Hapuku [Deity associated with Tree Ferns and marine mammals]
10. P. Central Eastern Polynesian
*aute *aute Broussonetia papyrifera
Hebe diosmifolia
Pimelia longifolia [Aute tāranga]
*fekī [10] whekī Dicksonia squarrosa
Dicksonia fibrosa [whēkī ponga]
*ngaio [10] ngaio Myoporum laetum
*kākaso [10] kākaho [Culm of] Austroderia toetoe &
Austroderia splendens
*kāretu [10] kāretu Hierochloe antarctica
*katoto [10] katoto [Variety of] Ipomoea batatas
*kiwa [10] kiwakiwa Blechnum fluvatile
*kofe [10] kohekohe Dysoxylum spectabile
*kōfai [10] kōwhai

Sophora tetraptera
Sophora microphylla
Clianthus puniceus
[kōwhai ngutu kākā]
Clianthus maximus [kōwhai ngutu kākā]

*kōfaikura [10] kōwhaikura Geum urbanum
Pontentilla anserinoides
*kōnini [10] kōnini [Edible fruit of] Fuchsia excortica
*kumala [10] kūmara Ipomoea batatas
*māfoe [10] māhoe Melicytus ramiflorus
Melicytus lanceolatus [Māhoe wao]
*mānawa [10] mānawa Avicennia marina v. australasica
*mamaku [10] mamaku Cyathea medullaris
*moī [10] moī [Variety of] Ipomoea batatas
*naupata [10] naupata Coprosma repens
*nīkau [10] nīkau Rhopalostylis sapida
*pai [10] pai Aciphylla squarrosa
*pa(la)pala [10] parapara Pisonia brunoniana
Pseudopanax lessonii
*piripiri [10] piripiri

Acaena anserinifolia
Bulbophyllum pigmaeum
Haloragus incana
Haloragus micrantha
Hymenophyllum demissimum
Hymenophyllum sanguinolentum
Lophocolea novae-zelandiae (Harpanthaceae)

*pōhue [10] pōhue; pōhuehue, pōpōhue

Muhlenbeckia complexa
Muhlenbeckia axillaris
Calystegia sepium [pōhue]
Calystegia tuguriorum
Calystegia soldanella
Clematis paniculata
Clematis cunninghamii
Clematis foetida
Clematis hookeriana
Passiflora [Tetrapathaea] tetrandra

*reto [10] retoreto Azolla filiculoides
*samo [10] hamohamo [Variety of] Ipomoea batatas
*sinasina [10] hinahina Melicytus ramiflorus
*soroeka [10] horoeka Pseudopanax crassifolius
*tāfero [10] tāwhero Weinmannia racemosa
*tainoka [10] tainoka Carmichaelia australis
*tōtara [10] tōtara Podocarpus totara
Podocarpus cunninghamii

Leptecophylla juniperina
Leupogon fraseri
Polytrichum juniperinum
Libocedrus plumosa [tōtara kiri kōtukutuku]
*nono [? 10] nonokia Pomaderris apetala
11. P. Tahitic
*kānuka [11] kānuka Kunzea ericoides
*kōkaha [11] *kōkaha Astelia solandri
*lemu [11] remuremu Selliera radicans
*mairehau [11] mairehau Leionema nudum
*neinei [11] neinei
Dracophyllum latifolium
Carmichaelia grandiflora [Neineikura]
Carmichaelia odorata [Neineikura]
*tausinu [11] tauhinu Pomaderris phylicaefolia
*raupo [11] raupō Typha orientalis
*tafifi [11] tawhiwhi Pittosporum tenuifolium
Parsonsia heterophylla
*taraire [11] taraire Beilschmiedia tarairi
12. P. Rarotongan / Māori
*angi [12] angiangi Coprosma repens
*kauere [12] kauere Vitex lucens
*kōkihi [12] kōkihi Tetragonia tetragonioides
*kōpī [12] kōpī Corynocapus laevigata
*kōtuku [12] kōtukutuku Fuchsia excorticata
*pōfutukava [12] pōhutukawa Metrosideros excelsa;
variety of Ipomoea batatas.
*pūfā [12] pūhā, pūwhā Sonchus littoralis
Sonchus asper
*hange [12] hangehange Geniostoma ligustrifolium
Elaeocarpus dentatus [a.k.a. hīnau]
13 Endemic
  koromiko Hebe stricta & other Hebe spp.
  hīnau Elaeocarpus dentatus
horopito Pseudowintera colorata
mingimingi Leucopogon fasciculatis
mauri Epiphytic Astelia species
kōhia Passiflora tetragona
14 Acquired
[Fr Indo-European] Ōriwa Olea europea

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[Page updated 6 August 2014]

Te Mära Reo, c/o Benton Family Trust, "Tumanako", RD 1, Taupiri, Waikato 3791, Aotearoa / New Zealand. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License