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Te harakeke

The flax

Te korari

The flower

Nga taonga whakarere iho

treasures left down here

O te rangi 

of the sky

O te whenua

of the land 

O nga tupuna

of our ancestors

Homai he oranga mo matou

give wellness for us

Tihei mauri ora

tis the sneeze of life


Harakeke comes in two main types/variety, the difference wouldn’t be noticeable to a non-weaver. Harakeke and wharariki is of the genus Phormium and is a leaf fibre, which provides quality muka. Wharariki has softer more pliable leaves that are prized for use in smaller more delicate work , while flax is of the genus Linum and is a bast fibre 

(fibre comes from the stem).

The two plants have no relationship to each other. Harakeke is native to New Zealand, Tasmania and Norfolk Island.

Harakeke was later recognised by European settlers for its superior value as a fibre. The hardy harakeke plant was incorrectly labelled ‘flax’ by the newcomers. 

Flax mills extracted the fibre for export overseas in what became a very lucrative market.


Harakeke was and still is a prized and important resource of our Maori Culture. It is used for many purposes including clothing, cooking, kai kete and kete/food gathering, traditional costumes, whariki/mat, wahakura/pepi pod, rongoa/medicine and many other everyday functional uses. Woven garments incorporating harakeke were worn by both men and women and their ranking would be represented through most of their traditional garments by its elegance, resources and patterns. The harakeke fibre was used for ropes, fishing lines and net making. The plants nectar was used as a sweetener, the dried flower stalks were lashed together to make mokihi/rafts, and the pia/gum and boiled roots were used for rongoa/medicinal purposes.

There are so many uses of harakeke, moving through to modern times, Māori weaving has become more contemporary than traditional. Meaning that our taonga are used more for art purposes than functional purposes. Harakeke is certainly a way of life which brings many benefits to our way of life and

our wellbeing.