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Forest Lore of the Maori

Fungi, Etc

page 97

Fungi, Etc.

Under this heading are included a number of species that were eaten by the Maori in former times. In a few cases the specific name is fixed, but in most cases we know nought save the native name. My own experience in forwarding specimens to experts for identification from remote camps in the byways of the land was that the process of decomposition was much more rapid than the postal service. The following is a list of the names of species that have been collected, so far as I am aware:—

  • Awhato, Awheto—A fungoid growth on a species of caterpillar (Cordiceps Robertsii). ? Syn. horuhoru.

    Hirneola Polytricha, the fungus of commerce.

    • Hakeka
    • Hakekakeka
    • Hakeke
    • Hokeke
    • Keka
    • Kekakeka
    • Kekeke
    • Paheke
    • Taringa-hakeke
    • Taringa-kuri
    • Taringa-o-tiakiwai

    It is found growing on dead and partially decayed trees, stumps and logs of karaka, pukatea, tawa, mahoe and kaiwhiria, evidently it prefers these species. This species was eaten by the Maori, but only in times of scarcity; it was not liked, and some form of greens would be cooked and eaten with it in order to make it palatable.

    Ileodictyon Cibarium. A globular net-like fungus.

    • Kokirikiri-whetu
    • Korokoro-whetu
    • Mata-kupenga
    • Paru-whatitiri
    • Pukurau
    • Tiko-whatitiri
    • Tutae-kehua
    • Tutae-whatitiri
    • Tutae-whetu


  • Harore—A generic term for many species. The introduced mushroom is included in this term.
  • Hawa—Doubtful as a fungus. A liehen aecording to Williams.
  • Hawai, Tiki hawai — Found growing on stumps and tree trunks; sometimes eaten raw; useful in summer when supplies are short.
  • Ipurangi—A species of toadstool.
  • Kapua—An edible fungus.
  • Kapurangi—A woody fungus that grows on tree trunks.
  • Karekawa-A fungus Which grows on dead wood.
  • Koaru—A species of fungus.
  • Kupa—A hard, woody fungus growing on tree trunks.
  • Manauea—Probably same as manauhea.
  • Manauhea—A terrestrial form of fungus.
  • Manehau—A species of toadstool.
  • Mekemeke—The puapua-a-auta-hi is sometimes so called on aecount of its rough (humekemeke) surface.
  • Mūna—A species of liehen.
  • Ngawari — An edible fungus growing on dead trees.
  • Pekepeke-kiore—Hydnum clath-roides. A fungus which grows on tree trunks.
  • Pohata—A species of fungus.
  • Popoia-atua—A species of fungus.page 98
  • Popoia-hakeke—Polyporus sp. Colenso.
  • Popo-whatitiri—A species of fungus.
  • Porotawa, Piritawa—A fungus which grows on trees; probably also known aspukutawa.
  • Pourangi, Poupourangi — A species of fungus.
  • Puapua-a-autahi—A poisonous fungus, eaten after prolonged cooking. See mekemeke.
  • Puapuatai—A red-coloured, six-branched species.
  • Puku—A term used to denote hard, woody forms of fungus that grow on tree trunks, as pukutawa and puku-tawai.
  • Punga—A fungus which grows on tree trunks. The word is equivalent to puku.
  • Putawa—A fungus which grows on tree trunks.
  • Roke-atua — A fungus which grows on tree trunks.
  • Taringa-rakau—A species of fungus.
  • Tawaka — A species of fungus, grows on dead trees and logs of tawa, houhi and mahoe.
  • Tehetehe—A terrestrial sp. of fungus.
  • Tiki—A species of fungus.
  • Tiki-tahora—Probably same as tiki.
  • Tikoatua—A species of fungus.
  • Tīpā, Tupa—An edible fungus, grows on trees.
  • Tipitaha.
  • Toi—Apparently a toadstool.
  • Tutae-atua—Lycoperdon sp. puff ball.
  • Tutae-ruru—A species of toadstool.
  • Tututupo—Ciavaria sp.
  • Waewae-atua—A species of toad stool.
  • Wairuru — A terrestrial form found in bush in winter.
  • Werewere-kokako—A species of liehen of a blue colour, so named from the blue wattles of the crow.
  • Whareatua—Said to be a name for the mushroom.
  • Whatitiri—A species of fungus.

Popoia-hakeke is given by White as another name for Hirneola polytricha, and quite probably this is correct. Colenso gave pukurau as Lycoperdon fontanessii, as also does White; the latter informs us that it grows 'as large as a child's head.' When not too old pukurau was cooked (steamed) and eaten. A sage of Matatua once told me that, if you find pukurau that is too young and small to be worth taking, you should at once take your stand to sunward of it, so that your shadow will fall upon the pukurau whereupon the latter will rapidly increase in size and so provide you with a meal. It is highly essential that wayfarers down the by-ways of the land should be acquainted with such simple acts of white magic. Of Ileodictyon cibarium only the outer part was eaten, and that only for a short while after it appeared above ground, later on it becomes uneatable.

The puapua a Autahi is, I was informed, a poisonous species, and it was necessary to subjeet it to prolonged cooking ere it was eaten. A person affected by the poisonous properties of this plant seemed to lose command of his limbs, and stagger about like a drunken person. The Matatua folk enveloped this fungus in many layers of page 99rangiora leaves and then buried the package in hot ashes, wherein it was allowed to remain for a lengthened period. The tawaka was gathered in summer and steam-cooked, but one informant stated that it was sometimes prepared by the huahua or kohua process, termed stone-boiling by us. I have seen specimens of this species 12 inches in diameter growing on half-decayed tawa stumps. It may be here mentioned that, should a person who has eaten tawaka pass through a cultivation where gourd-plants are growing, then all the gourds will decay on the runners, if he goes a-fishing then all flsh will elude him. These, I was assured, are facts.

It has been observed that a plentiful growth of fungi betokens a tau hi roki or lean season, also that these poor foods were sought during times of scarcity in summer. It is over twenty years since I last saw harore (fungi) eaten; that was when the true believers of the New Messiah craze retired to dwell at Maungapohatu, where, owing to their numbers, the food-supply ran very short. Natives ranged the forest far and wide in search of edible fungi, leaves, and anything eise eatable, the poorest food and little of it meant semi-starvation, the weaker perished, and many children died. I cannot say how many species of fungi were eaten by the Maori, for some of the names given above are probably duplicates, and concerning many of them I have no notes. Dr. Thomson put the number eaten as twelve; I much doubt that being precise knowledge. The tupuku method of cooking was usually followed in dealing with fungi; that is, the food to be cooked was placed in a basket, which basket was placed in the oven, and there covered.

Puku tawai was used as punk by fire-generators, also as a fire-stick to be carried by travellers. The popoia-atua, kawai, wairuru, pohata, popoia-hakeke and pekepeke-kiore are said to be edible species. Some of the woody forms of fungus seen growing on tree trunks present a Singular appearance; Angas Struck a true note when he wrote: "Several of the large shelving fungi, growing from the trunks of the trees, near the roots, are so broad and strong as to form capital seats." These are apparently species of Polyporus.