TCA 2011

[Above] Ancient Mālili tree, Tiapapata, Samoa

TCA 2011

[Above] Mālili tree, Botanical Garden of Samoa, Tiapapata, Samoa
(Coconut tree in right foreground)

TCA 2011

[Above] Cover of Peter Matthews' new book On the Trail of Taro

TCA 2011

[Above] Cultivated taro, Vailele, Samoa

TCA 2011

[Above] Prof Will McClatchey, Research Director, Botanical Institute of Texas, & Dr Peter Matthews, Osaka Museum of Natural History, examining one of the information "flags", 26 April 2012.

TCA 2011

[Above] Ms Seiko Furuhashi, Osaka Gakuin University, planting a fern (piupiu, Blechnum novaezelandiae), 25 August 2011.


TCA 2011

[[Above] Participants in the planning seminar examining plants of interest, 15 June 2011.


TCA 2011

[Above] Shelley Arlidge, Director of the Russell Museum, planting an Astelia in the *Fala garden, 9 May 2011.


TCA 2011

[Above] Members of the Waikato Branch of th NZ Tree Crops Association on their field trip to Te Māra Reo, 16 April 2011.


Tumanako in Te Muka 2011

[Above] Item about Te Mara Reo web site in He Muka, Māori Language Commission newsletter, after visit to the garden by Drs Jeremy Evas and Te Taka Keegan, 6th February 2011.


TCA 2011

[Above] Mari Stock planting a puka
(Meryta sinclairi)

TCA 2011

[Above] Grover and Mari Stock, permiculturalists from California, visiting the garden with Wikuki Kingi Jr, 25 January 2011.


TCA 2011

[Above] Medina Pawley planting a kāpuka, Griselina littoralis, 10 November 2010.


TCA 2011

Above] Prof Andrew Pawley, Australian National University, planting a horipito, 10 November 2010.


Martina  Buckova

[Above] Dr Martina Buckova, Slovak Academy of Sciences, planting a mamaku (Cyathea medullaris) 10 November 2010.


moso shoot

[Above] Prof Courtney Cazden, Harvard University, inspecting a new shoot of moso bamboo, 7 November 2010.



[Above] A poroporo seedling among the leaf litter at the edge of the moso bamboo grove.


poroporo flower

[Above] A poroporo flower.


Ngā Rongo o te Wā ~
Notes and News

Introductory Note

This is where we note significant additions, alterations and developments, both to this web site and to the garden itself, and occasionally miscellaneous items of interest. These updates are organized with the most recent at the top of the page, so that a bottom-up history of the project is starting to accumulate, which you can read backwards if you start at the top. The latest news to be made available on the site is right below this paragraph. If you want to skip that and go to the short cuts to the archived items (prior to March/April 2015), click here. Photographs related to each item from the current news back to November 2010 are arranged sequentially on the left-hand panel.


February 2016

Amendments have been made to some pages, a few more broken links repaired, and many new pages are in preparation. The first of these were ready for transfer at the end of this month and have now (early March) been transferred. These pages are in various stages of completeness, but all have the essential botanical information, many have a little additional information, and some have pictures. It takes quite a while to prepare a page as all the information has to be checked, including botanical names which are occasionally out of date in some key sources, and photographs sourced and prepared for the web. And then there is the narrative to add, often from many pages of notes. Rather than keep delaying until everything planned for a page has been completed, I have decided that the common-sense approach is to work towards getting get the basics attended to for all the words in our lists, and then go back and fill in the details later. The 13 pages added in this batch are those for ongaonga (Proto-Polynesian *hongohongo); whau and whauwhau (Proto-Polynesian *fau); houhere (Proto-Polynesian *fausele); kohe (Proto-Polynesian *kofe); māota (including Proto-Polynesian *maqota); kōhia (no direct Proto-Polynesian counterpart, but possible links to Proto-Polynesian *kofekofe); and ramarama (Proto-Polynesian *lama). There are 11 more now in preparation.

We remain deeply indebted to the members of the NZ Plant Conservation Network who have generously allowed us to use their photographs, and in some cases supplied unpublished ones to fill some gaps. In addition to those people mentioned in the news for December 2015, Mike Thorsen has given us permission to use his photographs; one appears in the page for ongaonga (link above). Additional material will be added to pages designated to be "under construction" when the opportunity arises, but priority will be given to producing pages with the botanical information for all the names on our list that are not yet represented on the site. However, please let us know if you would like information added to an existing page, or a currently absent page to be added, ahead of schedule. We'll try to oblige!

For those who have read the question at the end of the page about *talo (taro), if you look carefully at the photographs you will see that the leaf stalks of the Xanthosoma plants are attached right at the point of the "V" indentation on the leaf. The true taro (Colocasia esculenta) leaves are attached nearer the middle, a little way below the "V". The technical term for this is "peltate", from the Latin word "pelta", a crescent-shaped shield. Peltate leaves, like those of the Colocasia, are attached near the middle, between the upper and lower margins; the Xanthosoma leaves are non-peltate. I'm grateful to Dr Peter Matthews for identifying the Xanthosoma pictures from my collection of photographs of plants I have encountered in the Philippines.

December 2015

A lot of research and some exploration (in Aotearoa and Samoa) has been done since the last update, with about a dozen new pages in preparation and others revised. We hope to have the new pages finished soon. Meanwhile we are very grateful to have permission from a number of members of the NZ Plant Conservation Network to use their photographs on pages where we do not have enough or any suitable photographs of our own. These have been incorporated in many of the pages in preparation, and in the revised (and considerably expanded) pages for *fara, whara (including harakeke), and wharawhara, and cognate words, which are now up on the web. These people all have our grateful thanks: Wayne Bennett, Jonathan Boow, Jesse Bythell, Gillian Crowcroft, Peter de Lange, Jeremy Rolfe, and the late John Sawyer. We were saddened by the news of John's sudden death on 6 November, and extend our condolences to his family and friends. There is an obituary on the NZ Plant Conservation Network's website, outlining John's remarkable contribution to the conservation and knowledge of NZ native plants during the twenty years he lived in New Zealand; this including being one of the co-founders of the NZ Plant Conservation Network -- an organization which we would urge anyone interested in NZ native plants to join by becoming a member.

ONE LAST NOTE AND REQUEST! Since our change of server some months ago, we have noticed missing links on a few pages (usually due to a mysterious and arbitrary change in code which seems to have happened at the time of the switch, but sometimes because another site has taken down the page concerned). We have corrected these errors when we have encountered them, or after they have been reported by a reader. There are probably more. If you find a link that doesn't work (or takes you to the wrong place), or that a photograph is missing, please let us know: temaarareo at, or kupu at


For the record ... (Archived News Bulletins)

Archived News Bulletins:

March/April 2015 General Update / Links to new pages and information.
August 2014 General Update / New pages and information / New book on Taro
September 2013 General Update / Going Virtual
26 April 2012 Visit of Prof Will McClatchey & Dr Peter Matthews
25 August 2011 Visit of Ms Seiko Furuhashi
15 June 2011 "The Event!"
9 May 2011 Visit of Ms Shelley Arlidge
16 April 2011 Visit from Waikato Branch NZ Tree Crops Association
6 February 2011 Visit of Drs Jeremy Evas and Te Taka Keegan
25 January 2011 Visit of Grover and Mari Stock
10 November 2010 Visitors from Bratislava & Canberra
7 November 2010 Changes to website, visitor from Harvard
31 July 2010 Updates, visit by Waikato Branch NZ Tree Crop Association, general news
15 March 2010 Rain, frost, new pages
15 January 2010 Rain, progress, pineapples and blackberry (vith pictures!)
24 May 2009 Progress and penury
6 February 2009 Plans and developments
15 May 2008 Launch of the prototype site

March/April 2015

A few minor adjustments have been made since the last major update of the site in August last year, and one major change -- a new home page (the old one is now a "read more" page linked to the revamped one), along with a quick time-travel page, also linked to the home page, based on the brochure prepared a few years ago for visitors to the tangible garden.

New plant pages have been added, many in draft form so that the essential information will be available on the site more promptly. It often takes a long time to assemble the photographs and obtain and check the information included in the longer entries, so we have decided to start routinely putting up pages when we have the linguistic information and some basic information about the plants, rather than delay sometimes for months until a more complete version is ready. The new pages put up on April 10th are for Māori Hangehange, Hīnau, Makomako, and Maire, Proto-Polynesian *Hange, *Mako, and *Maile, and combined Māori/Proto-Polynesian (*)Aute (including *kaute, *siapo, matahiapo, *malo, and maro), (*)Mairehau, (*)Manapau, and (*)Pau. Two more pages feature locally created and acquired names, Koromiko and Ōriwa.

August 2014

August 2014 has been an exciting month for the web site. We have now completed our 100th on-line "name" page, with nine new pages bringing to 49 the number of pages devoted to Proto-Polynesian names, the plants they denoted, along with plants bearing reflexes of those names in some modern Polynesian languages, and 53 devoted to the plants bearing Maori names derived from earlier stages in the evolution of the language. Not yet half way -- still another 153 to go (unless more names or plant references are discovered!), but getting there.

At long last the pages on the web site can be accessed directly through the "" address. We are also slowly editing older pages and converting them into a modified format including the pull-down menu for getting to other parts of the site, and which also happens to be reasonably mobile-friendly.

New pages are also starting to appear-- the latest are those for Proto-Polynesian *Malili, *Tawa, *Lewa, and *Kulu, and their Māori reflexes Māriri, Tawa, Tawāpou, Rewarewa, and Kuru. Substantial revisions have also been made to the page for Māori Poroporo and the explanation of the use of the Chinese characters 德馨 on some pages. All these pages and 12 others have been transferred to the new format with the pull-down menu and more accessible page design. A few have only basic linguistic information at the moment; we hope to prepare more of these in the near future, to fill the complete gaps in our documentation. The garden itself has suffered from the recent frosts, and we are still uncertain as to the long-term future of the physical garden. However the virtual garden may well grow more luxuriantly; once we have the Māori names covered, we may include some more Samoan and Hawaiian reflexes that are not paralleled here as part of a wider garden of Tāne mā. Meanwhile I have been able to spend a few days in Samoa, and photograph a few of the plants which do share their names with counterparts in Aotearoa.

Many plant names have come to Aotearoa via Samoa, and several dozen probably originated there. On a recent visit to Samoa I was able to photograph two Mālili (Terminalia richii), a very tall forest tree, native to Samoa and now critically endangered, one in the botanical garden and another on the side of a road, dramatically catching the last rays of the sun. The name of this tree may be related to the Māori word māriri "the unripe fruit of the tawa" (another tall forest tree), derived from Proto Nuclear Polynesian *malili "unripe or withered fruit" -- there is a well-established Samoan cognate reflex from this source, malili (short initial vowel), used when fruit falls before maturing. We am very grateful for HH Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Taifi Efi for making this visit possible, and to Galumalemana Steven Percival for his help in locating the mālili and other significant plants and for facilitating a brief but very productive visit to the Botanical Gardens.

We have recently also received a copy of the book On the Trail of Taro: An Exploration of Natural and Cultural History by Dr Peter Matthews, a New Zealander who is a world authority on taro and has visited Te Māra Reo. It has just been published by the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka, Japan. It is a fascinating story replete with scientific data of the cultivation of taro and its spread by horticulturalists from Nepal on the one hand and Yunan, China on the other, in prehistoric times, reaching New Zealand from the Pacific in the early years of Maori settlement. However, the original strains have over the last two centuries been partly replaced by introduced varieties from China and elsewhere, although the older varieties also remained in cultivation. Taro is a very resilient plant, and both older and more recently introduced varieties may be found in the wild as well as in gardens.

September 2013

It is horrifying to note that it is over two years since this page was updated. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, we have been in the process of updating many pages while at the same time shifting the site to a new server, and this has taken longer and produced more complications than we anticipated. Most of those difficulties have now been surmounted, however, and when you see this the new pages will have been loaded. There may well be some bits missing and other adjustments needed, so if you spot something apparently amiss, please let us know. Secondly, the future of the garden itself is in doubt, as without an adequate income the venture is rapidly becoming unsustainable. However, we have decided that even if we have to abandon the physical garden, the digital one will be retained, so this site will continue to grow! Some of the highlights for the last two or three years are summarized below (with illustrations in the left-hand panel). More information, both old and new, will be added from time to time, at much shorter intervals than in the recent past!

Hoki atu ki runga - Return to the top of the page

April 2012

On April 26 we were honoured by a visit from Dr Peter Matthews of the Osaka Natural History Museum, a world authority on taro, and Professor Will McClatchey, the Director of Research at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas. Professor McClatchey, a distinguished ethnobotanist, was very helpful to us in making contacts and advancing our research when he was Professor of Botany at the University of Hawaii, and has remained a good friend of Te Māra Reo in his new capacity.

Hoki atu ki runga - Return to the top of the page

August 2011

On August 25 Ms Seiko Furuhashi from Osaka Gakuin University, Japan, visited Te Māra Reo. While she was here she was able to add to the fern collection by planting a specimen of Blechnum novaezelandiae in the section allocated to those collectively known as piupiu.

Hoki atu ki runga - Return to the top of the page

The Event. [15 June 2011]

On 15 June we held a seminar to discuss current plans and future possibilities for the garden with individuals and representatives of groups interested in native flora and ecological and environmental issues. The all-day seminar generated some very useful ideas, and we greatly regret that we have not been able to secure the resources needed to follow through on many of them.

Hoki atu ki runga - Return to the top of the page

May 2011

On May 9 Ms Shelley Arlidge, Director of the Russell Museum, visited Te Māra Reo to discuss the ideas behind the garden and plans for its development. She planted a specimen of Astelia fragrans (wharawhara) in the hexagonal "*fala" enclosure near the main gate.

Hoki atu ki runga - Return to the top of the page

Visit of Tree Crops Association, 16 April 2011

Members of the Waikato Branch of the New Zealand Tree Crops Association held a field day at "Tumanako" on 16th April 2011. Members had come to look at the fruit trees planted on the property, and also to tour the language garden. The event was reported in The Waikato and Thames/Coromandel Branches, New Zealand Tree Crops Association, Newsletter June 2011, pages 4 to 5, reproduced below.

On a dripping wet Saturday, tree crop enthusiasts numbering 19 braved the elements, dodged the V8's noise and traffic in Hamilton, and met at Richard Benton's 2 hectare property on the outskirts of Ngarauwahia. During the past 14 years of Benton family ownership, the use of the land has completely changed from an almost bare paddock with a row of 110 pine trees (now mostly gone) to a mixed forest of native and food bearing trees.

After a welcoming cuppa, Benton handed each of his visitors a leaflet outlining the stages of his "language garden" and an accompanying map of the intended 800 m winding tour of the property, arranged to simulate a trip around many Pacific islands. He then guided his visitors along the paths conducting them on the imaginary journey starting from Taiwan 5000 years ago, when Polynesian peoples began to spread across the Pacific. On the way, Benton, with his particular interest in Pacific languages, explained the concept that the names of New Zealand's native trees as we now know them, have developed down the centuries even millennia from the names of earlier, similar plants in different locations in the Pacific. In line with this concept Benton selected a dozen "stages" or places within his forest, to pause and note a particular tree and to point out the specific links. These includes those with familiar names such as kauri, kahikatea, totara, pohutukawa and manuka and others not so well-known.

Interspersed throughout Benton's forest are almost 50 planted kauris, now 12 years old and handsomely tall. We heard that the round kauri cones are female and pointed cones are male – news to some. The kauri does not have flowers. Male and female cones grow on the same tree, with a male cone emitting pollen.

Scattered among Benton's native trees are fruit and nut trees, including many kinds of olives although only one olive variety ears fruit and the Waikato – the koroneiki. Numerous figs were bearing, of note the tiny but sweet black mission variety. Figs and grapes grow well at this location.

Near the front of the property as a grove of large moso bamboo, with mature (four-year-old) bamboo stalks at least 100 mm in diameter. Bamboo is notorious for growing out of control, but Benton is fortunate that an Asian person, aware of both its potential and its needs, noticed it, remarked that it was the best stand he had seen in New Zealand and offered to tend it. He gathers the young shoots for eating, trims the roots, and as a result the stand is attractive and not at all like a common bamboo thicket. The strong bamboo can be used to certain types of construction provided is not left in the ground (where it rots). Benton has a plastic greenhouse made with bamboo stalks on Waratah posts.

On the property are one or two patches of hollow ground called borrow pits, having survived since Maori ownership. In days gone by they were used to provide course of gravel or other components to improve and warm up the soil elsewhere, where kumara were grown, perhaps across the adjacent Waikato River.

Other points of interest on the way included a bunyabunya tree, a Queensland kauri, a large Pinus pinea that will hopefully produce pine nuts, and the Hawaiian calabash gourd displaying one large gourd in progress.

Near the end of the journey the "tourists" refreshed themselves delightfully by munching on different varieties of ripe apples picked straight from the trees.

The visit was strongly educational, botany being intertwined with linguistics, history, and geography, all served on an imaginary sea voyage around the Pacific.

Thank you Richard Benton.

Hoki atu ki runga - Return to the top of the page

Visit of Drs Te Taka Keegan and Jeremy Evas, Waitangi Day 2011

We were delighted to welcome Dr Te Taka Keegan of the Computer Science Department at the University of Waikato and Dr Jeremy Evas, Director of Terminology and Policy, Welsh Language Board, who visited the garden on Waitangi Day. They came to discuss language revitalization policy and practice, and enjoyed the tour of Te Māra Reo while engaged in this task. There is a report on Dr Evas's visit to Aotearoa in Te Muka, the newsletter of the Māori Language Commission, Vol 24, No. 1, with photographs taken while he and Dr Keegan were with us.

Hoki atu ki runga - Return to the top of the page

Visit of Grover and Mari Stock 25 January 2011

Two visitors from California, Grover and Mari Stock, visited the garden with Wi Kuki Kingi, Jr, from Kirikiriroa Marae, Hamilton. Mari, originally from Costa Rica, and Grover were visiting New Zealand in connection with their work on sustainable land use and related matters. While they were here Mari planted a puka tree on the northern end of the "Nga Tamariki o Te Hapuku" fern garden. It was Wi Kuki who challenged us to "do it ourselves" when our ideas for a language garden in Manukau City were scotched by the developers of a new town centre.

Hoki atu ki runga - Return to the top of the page

Visitors from Canberra and Bratislava, November 2010

On 10 November 2010 we hosted Professor Andrew Pawley of the Research School of Asian and Pacific Studies, Australian National University, Canberra, his wife Medina, and Dr Martina Buckova, an anthropologist specializing in folk lore at the Slovakian Academy of Sciences, Bratislava. We had just started working on a section of the garden reserved specially for the children of Te Hapuku (tree ferns). After their tour of the garden, Martina was able to plant one of our newly-acquired mamaku there, and Medina and Andrew planted a kāpuka and horopito respectively along the border of this area.

Hoki atu ki runga - Return to the top of the page

7 November 2010

The 7th of November was the first of two major changeover days planned for this site: the launching of the revised versions of the key pages incorporating new headers with built in menus. Before long (we hope) this will be followed by transfer of the whole site to a new server, which will mean that all the pages will have URLs commencing "" rather than the present much more complicated addresses [this is still "work in progress @ August 23rd].

The revision of the pages seemed to be taking an interminable time, so it is a great relief to have completed it. It should make the site much easier to get around, and the information on it easier to find. These pages have also been livened up by a lot more photographs and icons. There is a guide to the site as a whole (and the garden) in the new "Finding Your Way / Hōparatanga" Section.

On the new pages we have also abandoned the "Māori" fonts, which we had used on the ones they replace -- instead, we have specified the fonts as Arial, Geneva or generic sans serif, with inbuilt macronized characters. The older pages, including all those dealing with plants and plant names written before November 2010, are still in the old format and incorporate Times New Roman Māori and Arial Māori fonts.

We had a visit from Emeritus Professor Courtney Cazden from Harvard University in September. She was very taken with the moso bamboo (see picture at left), through which the walk to beginning of the "Time Travel" journey usually begins. This plant grows naturally in the mountains of Taiwan and so the moso grove is a good imaginary encounter with the cradle of the Austronesian languages. Two words for large bamboos have been reconstructed for Proto-Austronesian: *betung (Proto-Oceanic *botung), and *qauR, unchanged in Proto-Oceanic. The first didn't make it into the Pacific; *qaur got as far as Vanuatu and New Caledonia, and its reflexes are also found as a generic word for "large-stemmed bamboo" in many Indonesian languages. Had it reached this part of the world, it would be au in Māori. (It is remotely possible, but I suspect unlikely, that au in the sense of a pin holding a mat as an item of clothing is an echo of *qaur, as this was certainly one of the many uses of bamboo in the tropics.) The new shoot which Professor Cazden is standing beside is now a culm about 8 metres tall -- they can reach 24 metres, so ours still have a way to go!

I was very pleased to discover when reading the October newsletter of the Waikato Botanical Society that we have at least one "declining" species of native plant actually flourishing here, but I was also disconcerted to realize that we had not been treating it with due deference! The plant concerned is the northern Poroporo, Solanum aviculare, which according to an article in the October 2010 Waikato Botanical Society's Newsletter is apparently rare in the Waikato and thought by some botanists to be a "declining species". Here in Te Māra Reo it is certainly not declining -- from two original plants we brought here from Auckland via Wellington it has been carried literally from one end of the 2 hectare block to the other. We like the tree -- it has attractive foliage, beautiful flowers, provides shelter and shade for smaller plants, and (because it's rather frost-tender) is an excellent indicator of where the warmer microclimates are to be found -- so we have generally left seedlings unmolested. It's also very fast growing, and we planted some along part of our boundary with a neighbour, to replace the pine trees we had felled. However, the first thing some local people we hired to clear along the boundary did a couple of years ago was to demolish unbidden every poroporo they encountered. This was not part of the plan (they regarded it as a weed), but we would have been a little more perturbed if we had realized that the way the plant was flourishing here was not the norm!

Finally, while in Hawaii in July and on a short visit to the Australian National University in September, and with the help of colleagues in Australia, Japan and the US, I have been doing some research on the migration history of taro, both the plant and the word. This will be reported in the page for taro when I have time to write up the results of these investigations. R.B.

Hoki atu ki runga - Return to the top of the page


31 July 2010

Even more water has fallen from the heavens since the last update, but there have also been a few frosts, mostly while I was in Hawaii doing some more research, although fortunately those have not been nearly as destructive as the ones we had a couple of years ago. Perhaps warming is accompanying climate change, after all, or some of the more tender plants are becoming hardier! Over the last four months revisions have been made to the introductory, acknowledgements, biographical, index, locations and contact pages. We are planning a change in the formatting of the site which will make the main menu accessible from all new pages and from existing ones as they are revised, as well as improving the overall page layout. This should be in train by the time of the next update, but don't hold your breath! New pages have been added or revisions made for 10 Proto-Polynesian names: *halufe, *mamaku, *kumala, *kaualiki, *kava, *kiwa, *mafoe, *manono, *taraire, and *fapuku. Nine new Maori-name pages corresponding to some of these (or others) have also been completed: kawa, kawariki, kiwakiwa, mahoe, puka, rangiora, taraire, mamaku and wheki. The report of the Waikato Botanical Society's visit at the end of February has also been made accessible from the site, as well as our brief "time travel" guide for visitors. While in Hawaii I visited the Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden on the island of Hawaii, and got some very good ideas from the way they run things (this is a formerly private garden owned by the Bishop Museum, but largely dependent on private funding and the help of volunteers to keep it going), some which I hope to implement in Te Mära Reo as the opportunity arises.

Hoki atu ki runga - Return to the top of the page


15 March 2010

A lot of water flowed from the heavens in January and up to the middle of February, but in the month since then only 10 mm has fallen. However, the fifty-odd seedling trees we planted out in January and early February are faring well, although we have given a few that were looking a bit jaded some water over the last couple of weeks.

Despite the drought, some qantum leaps forward have been made. We had a visit from the Waikato Botanical Society on February 27, which enabled us to inaugurate the "Time Travel" tour -- this seemed to interest everyone who took part. We were lucky to have had a visitor from Canada, Mr Noel Francisco, who did the walk a couple of weeks earlier. This allowed us to have a very helpful trial run. Another visitor, Mr Matthew King, shot 11 rabbits and a possum, which was also greatly appreciated.

Eleven new pages have been added to the web site since January 15: six Proto-names (*renga, *piu, *ponga, *feki, *lata, & *kisi); four Mäori names (rengarenga, piupiu, ponga, & kokihi), and a page about how the plants are (or will be) identified with "cylinder" and "flag" labels (this is linked to the "Finding your way around the garden" page). These signs are now in place for all the significant plants included in the "Time Travel" series, and a few others. We have bought a laminating machine and are printing the labels ourselves, which has cut the cost of preparing the signs by about 80%. Minor and sometimes major revisions have been made to many other pages on the web site, and further work on the plant names not yet dealt with is under way. The biggest headache right now is not the lack of water, but the absence of an inward cash flow :).

Hoki atu ki runga - Return to the top of the page


15 January 2010

It's been quite a while since the last update, and money is still a problem, but fortunately we are not quite bankrupt yet (although somewhat too many thousands of dollars poorer), and it's invasions of rabbits and weeds that are the major problem as I write -- I'll include a couple of photographs with this update to give you an idea as to why!

Although there's still a lot of work yet to be done, we are now just past the one-third mark in getting at least minimally informative pages (and some that actually are much better than that) up on the website. As of last night (January 14, 2010), there were 74 "plant name" pages on the web -- 36, covering 47 of the 136 proto-names we have identified, and 38 dealing with 54 of the 144 Maori names (and 91 of the 228 species included in those names). New names, especially new Maori names, are still being encountered, and the figures generally exclude reduplicated forms (but do include affixed forms), so the totals are close approximations rather than 100% accurate! But on any of these measures, we are a great deal further along than we were six months ago.

Also there's another important breakthrough -- you can now do some time travel around the garden, covering 6,000 years of the history of the Maori language while walking 750 metres or sitting comfortably at your computer; there's a link on the "finding your way around" page.

We have not had a serious invasion of ruminants for some months, and the new sheep-fencing right along the east, west and southern boundaries should provide security there, especially along the riverbank (western end), where animals from unfenced neighbouring properties often come up when the river is low. We wanted to completely replant the riverbank with native plants, especially species relevant to the language garden, but after a whole herd of yearlings rampaged through there and did quite a bit of damage to newly-planted trees elsewhere the garden a few months ago (before we had finished the fencing) we have had to give up on that idea for the moment. Because the land on our northern boundary hasn't been used since then I decided to forgo for the moment the expense of re-fencing the 250 metres left to do there and trust that the ad-hoc repairs we and the owners have made sporadically will hold if cattle are put back there. Meanwhile, as you can see in the photograph below, that neighboring property is a haven for blackberries and gorse, along with rabbits, a little discouraging as we battle with them on our side of the fence, but in this part of the world c'est la vie! Just for interest, I've put underneath a "this side/that side" pair of photographs which I took on one edge of my cousins-in-law's farm in South Cotabato, Philippines, in October 2008, looking out to the chemically-fertilized and chemical insecticide-treated Dole pineapple plantation, and in to their 80 hectares of wholly organic orchard using only biological and organic pest control and fertilizing.

Rongo 1
View across the boundary to the north - blackberry in middle ground, gorse right background; the tree in the top right is in Te Māra Reo [15 Jan. 2010].

Rongo 2
View from same spot, looking south (Te Māra Reo) -- Kahikatea and harakeke in centre, fig tree to left, Tawhiwhi (Pittosporum tenuifolium) right foreground.

Rongo 2
View from boundary of Kablon Farm, South Cotabato, Mindanao, Philippines -- looking across the surrounding Dole plantation -- monocrop pineapples.

Rongo 2
View from same spot, looking into the wholly organic Kablon Farm, with intercropping of coconuts, pepper, cacao, papaya, other trees and herbs [22 Oct 2008].

Hoki atu ki runga - Return to the top of the page

24 May 2009

Well, it's now been a year since this site was first put up, and progress has been rather slow, but it probably will be ready to go quietly public a few months from now, when a few more of the pages about names and the plants they refer to are up. So far 16, 8 historical and 8 contemporary, have seen the light of day, which is fairly glacial progress. However, this should be speeded up soon as more "proto-pages" are produced -- that is, instead of delaying until I have lots of information prepared in web format, I'll try to discipline myself to be satisfied with the basics, and just fill in the blanks later, as anyone who really wants to follow something up can probably find plenty of information elsewhere on the web. There are also 17 other pages on the site (with general information, descriptions of areas of the garden, etc.), so there's already plenty to read.

Money is a worry -- I started to wonder if I had done the right thing in deciding to stay here, let alone set out on the "Mära Reo" project, when a couple of days ago I looked at what it has cost us so far, and then cattle from neighbours on each side of the property broke through (or wandered in from the road -- we're not sure which), and started chomping up a variety of plants -- they all have gourmet tastes! We have also been re-invaded by rabbits from one of the neighbouring properties. The rabbits have been consuming poison with great enthusiasm, which has reduced their numbers but they have not yet been eliminated. However, despite these irritations, for the moment we have decided to persevere, and to explore possible avenues of assistance with some of the practical and financial problems. I also put a direct link to the "How you could help" section of the acknowledgements page on the side-panel of the site's home page. RB

Hoki atu ki runga - Return to the top of the page


6 February 2009

Well, almost nine months have gone by since the core pages were put on line, and nothing had been reported on this page since, although a few things had been done -- new web pages, alas, were not among them. But fittingly, since today would have been Nena's 69th birthday, in the last few days five more pages have been produced: the pages for the heritage word kauri and its Proto Nuclear Polynesian source *kauli, and the profiles of areas 2, 46 and 56, as well as an expansion of the description of area 29, and the addition of the new areas to the interactive location map. A number of new names and species were also added to the on-line list in the months in between, and a few new species have been added to the collection in the garden - although from where I sit typing this I can see about 100 plants which I obtained before I left for a couple of months in the Philippines in October 2008, and which still have not been planted. Meanwhile an embarrassing number of people around the world have expressed enthusiastic interest in the garden, so doing nothing or abandoning the project is no longer an option!

We do have a severe labour problem, as James has been ill for much of the past year and unable to do much labopuring work. I have put in several hours a day when I have been in New Zealand, but relatively long absences at critical periods (e.g. October-December 2008) have meant that, because systematic maintenance has not been possible in my absence, the jungle of weeds has grown up again and the heritage plants have been engulfed once more. We did hire some local workers during the winter and spring, but this was an expensive exercise and although it enabled the southern boundary to be cleared about a metre out from the fenceline, the area around the riverbank completely cleared of unwanted herbage on the surface (a major undertaking, but many of the weeds have since grown back, because there has been no follow-up) and some reinforced fencing put up to lessen the danger of invasion by animals from neighbouring properties - a perennial problem - maintenance of areas cleared the previous year for planting was not carried out, and part of these areas has been overrun by blackberry now 2 metres high! So the $8,150 paid out for these services simply secured the garden from large ruminants, but did little to maintain existing plantings let alone prepare the way for new ones. We spent $1,175 purchasing new plants, but, as noted above, only a few have been planted. A further $1,815 was spent on supplies explicitly for the language garden. When you add these up and include the $25,000 odd we paid for tree felling the previous year, you can see why finance is also a concern.

Nonetheless I am planning to try to find some reliable and reasonably industrious person whom we could employ for a day a week over the coming year to enable us to get rid of the really noxious weeds (blackberry, and to a lesser extent tradescantia and convolvulus are the really menacing ones) and keep them from reappearing by mowing regularly, mulching and so on. I'll organize future planting along the margins of already planted areas, as these can be prepared for expansion, so that things move out from various centres, rather than trying to colonize completely new locations. Most importantly, I'll try to maintain the momentum with the documentation, starting with the basics so a lot of pages can go up and be expanded later, rather than trying to exhaustively research each tree and word, taking weeks or months to get a page ready. I'm also going to "outsource" some of the work involved to the Philippines (like our Telecom company with its call centres), not because it's cheaper (I don't pay myself for doing it now :-)), but because processing and resizing each photograph or calculating the correct ratio of pixels takes so long to do -- if I could just select the photos I want (which takes long enough, given the disorganization of my files) and get someone else to do this tedious work, things would be speeded up enormously. It might possibly be expanded to include putting in all the links and testing these, another vital but time-consuming activity.

That's the grand plan for 2009. By the end of the year perhaps we can "go public" and solicit donations from admirers with a clear conscience, economic downturns notwithstanding -- they won't affect eccentric millionaires! (Widows mites will also be very acceptable, provided they don't have legs.) So, watch the space above this one for news of our progress.

Hoki atu ki runga - Return to the top of the page


15 May 2008

This is the first anniversary of Nena's death, and also the day on which the core pages (including this one) were all on the web for initial perusal and checking by family and friends -- so, the launch day for the advanced prototype.

Hoki atu ki runga - Return to the top of the page


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