Piwakawaka Mini Te Mära Reo ~ The Language Garden
*Kaualiki [Proto Eastern Polynesian] ~ *Manono [Proto Polynesian]

Kawariki ~ Manono, Kanono


Coprosma grandifolia [formerly C. australis] (Rubiaceae)

Other inherited names: Manono (see side panel and text below)


The proto Eastern Polynesian word from from which the Mäori tree name kawariki originated seems to have denoted the tropical "umbrella tree", Terminalia catappa, a meaning retained in cognate words in other Eastern Polynesian languages. The word seems to be derived from the Proto Polynesian words kau "wood, timber" and ariki "chief", and it is possible that one of the meanings still retained in modern Samoan, "a chief's word", was its original meaning. Be that as it may, the Terminalia's large leaves have a counterpart in those of the Coprosma species which received its name in Aotearoa.

The names manono and kanono (only Maori has the alternation of "m" and "k" for the initial consonant in this and a few other words) are derived from a Proto Polynesian word, *manono, denoting a tree with medicinal properties, Tarenna sambucina, classified by botanists in the coffee family (Rubiaceae). The reflexes of this word have retained that meaning in many Polynesian languages; in some, like Mäori and Hawaiian, they refer to other members of this same botanical family with similar attributes. The Tahitian and Marquesan forms refer also to other plants which are reminiscent of the Tarenna.

Coprosma grandifolia grows in moist, sheltered places in the forest, and is found in the Three Kings Islands as well as the North and South Islands. The leaves are large, up to 20 cm long and 10 cm wide. The tree itself reaches from 4 to 6 metres in height, much shorter than its tropical namesakes.

A yellow dye was obtained from the bark; Murdoch Riley notes that scrapings of kawariki bark were bound with harakeke (flax) around whalebone patus, which were then baked in a hängi (earth oven) to give a yellow shading to the weapon. Like the tropical manono, an infusion of the inner bark in cold water was used to treat sprains and fatigued limbs. An infusion of bark and leaves was used to treat broken limbs; the leaves themselves were also employed for this purpose. The bark and sap were also effective in treating cuts, bruises and skin disorders.

The flowers of most Coprosma species are either male or female, and (unlike those of most of the Rubiaceae) small and wind pollinated. To help ensure polination, the male flowers have extra-long stamens which are easily blown about, helping to ensure that pollen is widely dispensed from the correspondingly large anthers. (A greatly enlarged photograph of the male flowers of Coprisma grandifolia is in the panel opposite.)

The fruit, like that of other Coprosma species, is edible, but was not particularly esteemed except in times of famine. The response of the Mäori King Tawhiao when he did not receive the cooperation he asked for in building a social and ecnomic order capable of resisting British imperialism and settler ambitions is still remembered and recited by the Tainui people:

Mäku anö töku nei whare e hanga. Ko nga poupou o roto he mähoe, he patete, ko te tähuhu he hïnau. Me whakatupu ki te hua o te rengarenga, me whakapakari ki te hua o te kawariki. ["I myself will build my house. The inner supports will be of mähoe and patete, the ridgepole of hïnau. Be nourished on the fruit of the rengarenga; be strengthened with the fruit of the kawariki."]

The message is that Täwhiao will rely on ordinary people, and on the resources at hand, rather than on the rich and famous and external aid -- the three trees mentioned, patete (Schleffera digitata), mähoe (Melicytus ramiflorus) and hïnau (Elaeocarpus dentata), would only be used for building in the direst of emergencies. The rengarenga (Arthropodium cirrhatum) was a luxury food, but the kawariki was a food for hard times -- Täwhiao's followers thus had to become self-sufficient, and be prepared to take the hard times with the good. (Täwhiao had an encampment adjacent to Te Mära Reo, and these proverbial plants are all growing here.)


Metrosideros fulgens

PNPn: *Kaualiki (A chief's word; the keel of a boat made from Terminalia wood)
PCEPn: *Kavariki (Terminalia catappa [Combretaceae])
Mäori Reflex: Kawariki (Coprosma grandifolia [Rubiaceae])

Cognate words:
Samoan: 'auali'i (Terminalia catappa & T. litoralis; the keel of a boat made from Terminalia wood; the word of a chief)
Tahitian: 'auari'i (Terminalia catappa)
Marquesan: Kouali'i (T. catappa)
Tuamotuan: Aua (T. catappa)
Rarotongan: Kauariki, Kavariki (T. catappa & T. glabrata)

Note: See linked page for the Proto Form *kaualiki for a discussion of the Samoan cognate.

Manono ~ Kanono

PPN: *Manono Tarenna sambucina (Rubiaceae)
Mäori Reflex: Manono, Kanono (Coprosma grandifolia [Rubiaceae])

Cognate words:
Tongan: Manonu (Tarenna sambucina - Rubiaceae)
Niuean: Manono (T. sambucina)
Samoan: Mänunu, Ma'anunu (T. sambucina)
Tahitian: Manono (T. sambucina, Glochidion ramiflorum & Phyllanthus manono - Phyllanthaceae)
Marquesan: Manono (Phyllanthus amarus - Phyllanthaceae)
Hawaiian: Manono (Hedyotis terminalis, H. fosbergii & H, hillebrandii- Rubiaceae)
Tuamotuan: Manono (Tarenna sambucina - Rubiaceae)

Coprosma grandifolia flowersMale flowers of Coprosma grandifolia (greatly enlarged)

Further information: There is general information, along with good photographs of the fruit, flowers and leaves of Coprosma grandifolia, on the NZ Plant Conservation Network's web site. The Bushman's Friend web site has a very nice presentation on New Zealand species of Coprosma, complementing the treatment in John Dawson's book (see link below). Some (perhaps all) species of buttercup (Ranunculus) are known generically as "kawariki". In this case the name is probably simply a variant of other common names for these plants, raoriki and waoriki, and not derived from Proto Nuclear Polynesian *kaualiki.

Sources of photographs: The photograph of the male flowers of the manono is by M.D. King, from the electronic version of John Dawson's book Forest Vines to Snow Tussocks: The Story of New Zealand Plants. The other photograph is of a kawariki seedling in Te Mära Reo.


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.