Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Weaving Plants – biology, distribution, and propagation

Harakeke (New Zealand flax) is the most widely used native plant in both traditional and contemporary weaving, but several other species are also used for their distinctive qualities.

The following information on the biology, ecology, distribution, threats to and propagation of weaving plants is aimed particularly at those learning raranga (plaiting) and whatu (weaving). We hope that a deeper understanding of the plants’ biology and information on how to grow them will assist weavers and communities in their efforts to conserve these important resources.

Māori name

Other common name

Scientific name

Harakeke New Zealand flax  Phormium tenax
Houhere lacebark Hoheria spp.
Inaka grass tree Dracophyllum spp.
Kāpūngāwhā lake clubrush Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani 
Kāretu holy grass Hierochloe redolens
Kiekie   kiekie Freycinetia banksii
Kuta bamboo spike sedge Eleocharis sphacelata
Neinei grass tree Dracophyllum spp.
Pīngao golden sand sedge Ficinia spiralis
Raupō bulrush  Typha orientalis
Ti kōuka cabbage tree Cordyline australis
Tikumu mountain daisy Celmisia spp.
Tōī mountain cabbage tree Cordyline indivisa
Toetoe toetoe Cortaderia spp.
Wharariki mountain flax Phormium cookianum

Further reading

For stunning images of weaving from a variety of plants see:

  • Miriama Evans & Ranui Ngarimu 2005. The art of Māori weaving. Wellington, Huia Publishers.
  • Mick Pendergrast 1987. Te aho tapu. The sacred thread. Auckland, Reed Methuen.
  • Tōī Te Rito Maihi & Maureen Lander 2005. He kete he kōrero. Every kete has a story. Auckland, Reed.


  • Katarina Tawiri has been documenting the weaving and fibre properties of around 50 different varieties of harakeke from the Rene Orchiston Harakeke collection, located at Lincoln