*Kafika [Proto-Polynesian, from Proto-Oceanic *Kapika];
*Manuka [Probably Proto-Polynesian, from Proto-Fijiic *Nungka];
*Toa [Proto-Polynesian, from Proto-Malayo Polynesian *TeRas]

Kahikaatoa, Mānuka

Leptospermum scoparium (Myrtaceae)

Tui

 

ETYMOLOGY:
*Manuka
From Proto Polynesian *Mānuka A tree with hard, weapons-grade wood, or medicinal properties; through
Proto (Pre-)Polynesian: *Nukanuka Decaspermum fruticosum

*Kafika
From Proto Polynesian *Kafika Szygium malaccensis (Myrtaceae); through
Proto Secondary Source: *Reconstruction Species etc.

*Toa
From Proto Malayo Polynesian *TeRas Hard; hardwood [generic]; through
Proto Polynesian: *Toa Casuarina equisetifolia.
(Casuarinaceae)

Manuka-flower
Mānuka (Kahikaatoa) in flower in Te Māra Reo

Manuka-flower
Mānuka (Kahikaatoa) in flower in Te Māra Reo

COGNATE WORDS IN SOME OTHER POLYNESIAN LANGUAGES
Manuka
Rennelese: Manguka (Altonia spectabilis)
Tongan : Nukanuka (Decaspermum fruticosum)
Samoan : Nu'anu'a (Decaspermum fruticosum)
Tahitian : Nuanua (Decaspermum fruticosum)
Kafika
Tongan: Fekika, Fikakai (Szygium malaccensis)
Niuean: Fekakai (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)
Toa
Tongan, Niuean, Samoan, Tahitian, Marquesan, Tuamotuan, Rarotongan: Toa, "Ironwood", (Casuarina equisetifolia, Casuarinaceae)
Hawaiian: Koa (Acacia koa, Fabaceae)
Note: The Casuarina (Ironwood) tree was introduced to Rarotonga from Tahiti. The Polynesians did not take it to Hawai'i; when it did arrive there in the 19th Century it was called paina ("pine").


RELATED MĀORI PLANT NAMES
The Māori name Mānuka is shared with two other trees - Kunzea ericoides (Kānuka, Mānuka, Mānuka rauriki), and Leupogon fasciculata (Mānuka rauriki, Mingimingi).

NOTE - THIS PROTO-PAGE IS STILL IN THE VERY EARLY STAGES OF CONSTRUCTION!

The Mānuka called by botanists Leptospermum scoparium is a very important small tree by any name . It grows to about 4 metres high, and is found in a wide variety of soils in open places. It acts as a nurse tree for regenerating forests. The flowers are very attractive, much larger than those of the kānuka (over a centimetre wide, compared with one or two milimetres). The Kānuka and kahikaatoa are very similar trees in many ways but the kānuka has soft (rather than prickly) leaves, and grows three or four times higher. Also, Mānuka (Kahikaatoa) leaves are not aromatic when crushed (despite it's being called "tea tree" in English), whereas those of the kānuka are.

The excellence of this tree for heavy-duty work that required a slender, durable, sharp object is captured in this proverb:

He iti kahikātoa pakaru rikiriki te tōtara
The little kahikaatoa can reduce the mighty tōtara to splinters. [M & G #419]

The wood is very strong and hard, excellent for weapons and agricultural implements, and also for firewood! As the proverb notes, as well as for the weapons that could defeat mighty warriors, the kahikaatoa was the ideal timber for wedges used for the felling and dismemberment of large trees, and thus a symbol of what could be achieved by anyone with the requisite determination and resilience.

Follow the links to the Proto-Polynesian names for more information (and speculation) about the etymology of Mānuka and Kahikaatoa. There are mānuka (mostly grown from the seed of wild plants) in the garden. There are also many named cultivated varieties.

References and further reading: See linked pages and general works on NZ trees in the bibliography. There is also an interesting account of the unique medicinal qualities of manuka honey on the Roral Society of New Zealand's blog site: http://sciblogs.co.nz/iaq/2015/04/15/miraculous-manuka/

Photographs: RB, Te Māra Reo.

Pohutukawa
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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