Piwakawaka Mini Te Mära Reo ~ The Language Garden
*Kafika [Proto-Polynesian, from Proto-Oceanic *Kapika "Syzygium malaccensis"]

Kahika, Kahikatea


Dacryocarpus dacrydioides [formerly Podocarpus dacrydioides ] (Podocarpaceae)

Other cognate inherited names: Kahikahika , Kahikaatoa , Kahikawaka (see separate pages)


The name kahika is an ancient one, which in most of the Austronesian languages in Oceania denotes the Malay Apple, Syzygium malaccensis. This tree was either not brought to Aotearoa or would not grow here, but the name was applied directly and through names derived from it to several New Zealand plants (see links above). The one discussed on this page is the kahika or kahikatea ("white kahika", from the colour of the wood), along with the kauri an iconic New Zealand tree. The word kahika also denotes the flower of the rätä and other species of Metrosideros, and also is an alternative name for another iconic tree, the pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa).

The Kahikatea
Location in the Language Garden
The Kahikatea in Tradition and Everyday Life

The Kahikatea

The kahikatea is Aotearoa's tallest tree, rising to over 60 metres in mature stands. It is a highly sociable creature, congregating in large, closely populated groups in damp and swamy places, supported on strong butress roots where the ground is regularly subject to inundation. It is found throughout New Zealand, but in many parts of the country only small remnants of the original forests remain; the most extensive and magnificent of these are now located on the West Coast of the South Island.




Back to: The Kahikatea
Next sections:
Location in the Language Garden
The Kahikatea in Tradition and Everyday Life

Location in the Language Garden

There is a thriving stand of kahikatea in the dampest part of our garden, at the foot of the northern end of the last terrace before the river (Area NW-84). These trees first, seedlings probably two years old which were planted out in 2000, had a few fruit in 2008, and fruited profusely in 2009. Individual trees are scattered throughout the garden.


Back to:
The Kahikatea
Location in the Language Garden
Next section:
The Kahikatea in Tradition and Everyday Life



Mature kahikatea

Kahikatea seed and drupe

PPN: *Kafika Szygium malaccensis (Myrtaceae)

Tongan: Fekika (Szygium malaccensis)
Niuean: Fekakai, Fikakai (S. malaccensis) & Kafika (S. inophylloides)
Samoan: Nonu fi'afi'a (S. malaccensis)
Tahitian: 'ahi'a (S. malaccensis)
Marquesan: Kehika (S. malaccensis)
Hawaiian: 'öhia 'ai (S. malaccensis) & 'öhia (Metrosideros spp.)
Rarotongan: Ka'ika (S. malaccensis)

Kahikatea trunks
Trunks of 10-year old kahikatea


The Kahikatea in Tradition and Everyday Life

The very first reference to the kahika (kahikatea) in Ngata's Nga Moteatea gives us a strong clue as to why this tree might have been given its name -- like the *kafika, it bears a fruit delectable and esteemed. An unknown woman longing to attract a noble lover sings wistfully:

Kia parahua ai te ika ki te möunu, ë,
Whai rawa atu nei, kore rawa e anga mai.
E tuia ana koe e te pua i te kahika, ë,
E te ora iti rä ....
Like a fish that nibbles at the bait,
Advances are made, but you will not respond
For you are drawn where the kahika berries abound
To the rare viands ....

[He Waiata Wawata mö Te Kaniatakirau, N.M. Vol1, pp. 74-5]

In proverbs, it features both to encourage ambition ...

Iti te köpara, kai täkirikiri ana i runga i te kahikatea.
Although the bellbird is small, he feedls unrestrainedly atop the kahikatea.

... and to serve as a caution to the proud and overconfident:

He iti te mokoroa, näna i käkati te kahikatea
Although it's tiny, it was the huhu grub that felled the kahikatea. [The mokoroa is the larval stage of the huhu beetle, Prionoplus reticularis, which feeds on this and other forest trees. It's also good to eat, raw or cooked!]
[M&G, #418]

A lot more to come later! .

Back to:
The Kahikatea
Location in the Language Garden
The Kahikatea in Tradition and Everyday Life

Kahikatea seeds with droops forming below them.



References and further reading


Photographs. Mature kahikatea: http://www.doc.govt.nz/upload/6131/kahikatea-223.jpg . Others are of trees growing in Te Mära Reo, Area NW-83.

Links: There is a very basic article on the kahikatea and its close relative the rimu (also the inheritor of an ancient name), on the new Encyclopedia of New Zealand website. More links will be added in the fullness of time!

Hue flower

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