The significance of harakeke in Māori culture, are it’s medicinal properties and the artistic value of the beautiful harakeke leaves.
The first European settlers discovered early on that flax was an invaluable resource for Māori. With so many uses, it was a staple in many pā or marae where it was common to have a flax plantation with many varieties of harakeke.
Its principal use was for weaving, using either the raw leaf, or the long fibres extracted from the leaves. Leaf strips are used in raranga (weaving), the plaiting of kete (baskets, containers) and whāriki (mats). Extracted fibre (muka or whītau) is used to make traditional kākahu (cloaks), and for cords and ropes
Harakeke also has many medicinal uses. The sticky sap or gum that it produces was applied to boils and wounds and used for toothache. The gel which oozes from the freshly-cut stems has similar healing properties to Aloe Vera, useful in treating skin irritations such as eczema and burns. Flax leaves were used in binding broken bones and matted leaves were used as dressings. Flax root juice was routinely applied to wounds as a disinfectant. And before sugar came along, the abundant nectar from flax flowers was used to sweeten food and beverages. No wonder the tūī loves it so much!
Harakeke is still traditionally used by Māori today to weave a number of things like kete and whāriki but it can also be found in soaps, hand creams, shampoos and a range of other cosmetics.
As florists, we especially love flowers, mats and baskets that are made out of harakeke and enjoy incorporating them into our arrangements.
Each harakeke flower is carefully handmade and are a creative alternative to fresh flowers. Plus, they last forever! Flowers that can be made out of harekeke, one of the most versatile plants found in beautiful Aotearoa.
Written by my lovely daughter