7 New Zealand Plants with a South American or Asian Connection

New Zealand Plants with a South American or Asian Connection

Kanga – Maize (Zea mays)

It is not known when maize was first introduced to New Zealand.  Peru has been suggested as its place of origin.

The most unusual method employed to cure the corn is called the “kanda wai” process.  This involves steeping the kernels in water, which then produces “kanga pirau”.  The Indians of the Ancash Province in Peru also use this method.  Both the Maori and the Ancash Indians have used this method of soaking the potatoes in cooking preparations.

Ettie Rout (1926) wrote: “The New Zealand Maori formerly grew large quantities of magnificent maize, from seed brought by them from Peru”.

Karetu – Scented Grass (Hierochloe redolens)

This is also found in Colombia.

Marsh Cress – Hanea, Poniu (Rorippa palustris)

It was probably used by 18th Century explorers to try to combat scurvy.  It is part of the cabbage plant family although it looks very different.  The Maori boiled it and to eat in early times.

It was also interestingly used by the Navaho-Ramah American Indians as a ceremonial eyewash as part of a ritual (Moerman 1986).  We have ‘Chinese’ DNA of the Navaho Indians (also spelt Navajo)  – Professor Novick and colleagues.  The Navajo also understand Chinese having similar linguistics.

New Zealand Spinach

Although this species of vegetable is widely known as ‘New Zealand’ Spinach – it can also be found in Asia, Australia and parts of the South Pacific.

Taro (Colocasia antiquorum; Colocasia esculenta)

Taro is said to originate in the Indo-Burmese region from whence it spread West to Egypt around the time of Christ.  It then spread east to China and Japan soon after.  It is now found growing wild on the Islands in Hawaii and the Pacific.  Over twenty varieties of Taro were grown in the warmer parts of North Island, New Zealand.  It was grown close to water supplies as it prefers rich moist soil of a sandy nature.  The Chinese use taro for medicinal purposes.  It tastes sweet and pungent and it acts on problems in the stomach and large intestine.  Its healing effects are it can cure scrofula, treat tuberculosis of the lymph nodes.  It was used for treating diarrhoea, worms and also given to women to ease birth pains.

It is presumed that the Maori brought over Taro to New Zealand.  This plant so common in China and Japan with so many magnificent properties is one that the Chinese with their extensive knowledge of herbal remedies would certainly have carried on long voyages.  The Maori in New Zealand today sadly lack knowledge of the plants medicinal uses still acknowledged Hawaii and China.


The Maoris have been presumed to be the carriers of the much-cultivated Kumara sweet potato in New Zealand.
Kumara : “A sweet potato of tropical origin, a member of the plant family Convolvulaceae, which was the major cultivated food crop of the pre-European Maori. The kumara grew successfully only on sheltered north-facing gardens in the north of the North Island. Some of the varieties grown today are believed to have been introduced by 19th century whalers and sealers, but Maori tradition claims the origin of the kumara as Hawaiki, the legendary homeland. The Kumara is most certainly a Central American plant originally”
(Source : New Zealand Encyclopedia, 4th Edition, Bateman)

The New Zealand Maoris’ y-chromosome (male) DNA is genetically proven to be Polynesian in origin.
No Polynesian DNA has been found in the people of South America  (Bryan Sykes, Professor of Human Genetics Oxford University)

Therefore how is it possible that the New Zealand Maori carried the undisputed Andean Kumara sweet potato to New Zealand without leaving any genetic trace of their presence in South America?

Further – Peter Smith has provided us with this further information:  These potato are quite distinct from the kumara (sweet potato). The name peru-peru is generic as there are numerous varieties of maori potato, perhaps more than twelve, each with its own maori name (e.g. tutai kuri) and each quite distinct in appearance. They bear little resemblance in appearance to the modern potato as we know it. The maori potato is generally smaller often with a dark red or purple skin although the leaves on some varieties are almost identical to the modern potato although they often have a purple tinge at the edges. I have always thought the maori name is more than coincidence

New Zealand Maori”s mitochondrial (female) DNA is also genetically proven to be Asiatic (Dr Chambers)

Other Plants that can be found in New Zealand that we believe were brought over by the Chinese:

· Karaka tree brought over by the Chinese from Easter Island (Journeys into the Mystery – Gary Cook)
· Conifers appear in Fiji, New Hebrides, Tasmania, Australia and New Zealand: “There are 77 plant species unique to New Zealand, Tasmania and Central America”
· Chenopodium Album – discovered by Cook on South Island, 1769, indigenous to China and North America (Dave Bell)
· Paper mulberry (Brouseonetia Papyrifera) from Hawaii – used for tapa cloth
· Hue (lagenia vulgaris) from Hawaii – gourd plant used for food.
· Cheilanthes tenufolia from Asia
· Wild cabbage (Brassica oleracea)
· Broadleaf (Grislinia littoracis) from Chile
· Wild turnip from India
· Black nightshade from Hawaii
· Watercress from California
· Miro trees from Pitcairn
· “Dragon”s beardgrass” (Juncus effusus) rushes from China
· Juncus communis rushes from China

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