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There are many cultural and spiritual elements associated with harakeke, its harvesting methods and its uses.

Māori use the same process in harvesting, however most tribes have different techniques and patterns which represent a significant purpose of that tribe. It is important to understand and recognize the indigenous knowledge associated with the plant. The tikanga around harvesting harakeke is grounded in common sense and protects the welfare of both the harvester and the harakeke plant itself.

Māori say a karakia/prayer when harvesting leaves for use. In the karakia, acknowledgement of our ancestors 

and thanks is given as well as asking that no harm come to the plant, to the harvester or to whoever works with the cut material or the finished taonga/gift. Karakia focuses the mind on the task at hand and acknowledges the harakeke as a taonga.

Māori look at the harakeke plant as a whanau/family group. It grows in a fan-like pattern where the rito/baby leaf is in the center of the plant and is identified as a tamaiti/child, and then the awhi rito/parent leaves which sit on both sides of the rito and are identified as the guardians. These leaves are never to be cut or taken. The only leaves which are to be harvested are the third or preferably fourth from the center (rito), these outer leaves are called the tupuna/grandparent leaves and it is these leaves that are harvested. In harvesting the harakeke, the whakapapa of the plant is protected because the rito and its awhi rito are retained to produce further generations of growth-through sustainable harvesting, 

the plant will continue to flourish.

The whanau share common roots and derive strength and stability from each other.


  • Never cut leaves when korari (flower stalks) are growing.
  • This is because the plant is in its prime season of producing growth (multiplying) and providing food for animals and insects. To cut the plant at this time may affect the growth process causing it to weaken.
  • Both sides of the plant should be left balanced after cutting.
  • This assures clean cuts and allows water to run off the plant naturally preventing build-up of water which could drown/rot the plant.
  • Traditionally pregnant or menstruating women do not harvest harakeke as at this time they are in a sacred state. (Tapu) It also prevents accidents happening.
  • You should NOT try to harvest harakeke if you are unwell as illness and disease also destroy tapu.
  • Our sickness could affect the plant itself as we connect with our environment and natural resources and could affect our ability to harvest and prepare the harakeke correctly.
  • Harakeke should be harvested during the day when the blades are dry, not at night or in the rain or frost-as a safety measure but also as doing so will affect the quality of the harakeke making it very brittle and hard to work with.
  • Always leave the Whanau (child and parents) which are the three, middle group of leaves.
  • Always clean your pa harakeke when harvesting. Return all the para/rubbish of the harvest back to the land.

B L A C K . F L A X







Find your desired harakeke plant to harvest.

Recognize the harakeke whanau.

(Parts Of The Harakeke)


On a downward angel as shown above in photo, recognise and cut the tupuna ONLY leaves.

The downward angle allows the rain water and dew to run off the harakeke to prevent it from holding too much water which may rot or delay growth to the plant.This traditional harvesting method also allows the harakeke to breathe and creates space for the upcoming generations.


Repeat step 2 on the OPPOSITE side of the harakeke whanau as shown (left) again in a downward angle. If the harakeke plant appears unstable or the rito and awhi rito may need extra support leave the third tupuna leaves on and cut from the fourth tupuna leaves instead.


  • Always use safety precautions when harvesting and preparing harakeke.
  • Be very careful when using a blade to cut the harakeke.
  • Make sure when choosing your pa harakeke for harvesting to always clean your entire pa harakeke.
  • RELEASING - Clearing away weeds and overgrowth around the plant.
  • This gives the plant a new beginning for growth and when you return to the pa harakeke again you will have space to harvest and will be rewarded with beautiful, clean blades.
  • Place all your para/un-wanted harakeke beneath the harakeke bush to return it back to the whenua.
  • This also provides nutrients for the harakeke during its decomposing process and keeps the weeds from surrounding the harakeke.
  • Once you clean your harakeke and keep it maintained by harvesting and utilising the blades, You will never have to clean it again! 

B L A C K . F LA X