The world’s most cold-hardy palm,nīkauis found naturally from North Cape to Akaroa, and grows in large quantities onthe west cost of the South Island.
One translation of ‘nīkau’ is ‘without nuts' (some say Māori looked to thenīkauhoping for familiar coconuts when theyarrived in New Zealand). An alternative translation is ‘only leaves’: thenīkauhas lots of leaves originating from a singlestalk.
Pink flowers are produced between November and April, which emerge like tentacles from the trunk, just below thelowest frond. Fruits ripen from February to November, taking almost a year to fully ripen.
The undeveloped flower can be eaten, as can the unripe green berries.
The ripe red berries are incredibly dense and are a favourite of the nativekererū.
Nīkauwas a very versatile plant for traditional Māori uses. Leaves were used for thatching, weaving and wrapping food,berries for eating and necklaces, trunk for storage containers and pots.
The heart of the fronds (terito) can be cooked and eaten, but it is often referred to as ‘Millionaire’s salad’ as harvestingteritokills the tree.
Medicinally,nīkaupith was used as a laxative and also to relax the muscles of the pelvic floor, making labour easier.