Maori Name: Matai
Common Name: Black Pine
Botanical Name: Prumnopitys taxifolia
The matai was a revered tree by maori who used the timber and gum extensively. Europeans also appreciated the matai for its properties of hardness, wearing ability and dimensional stability.
Endemic to New Zealand the matai tree grows up to 40 m high, with a trunk up to 2 m diameter. The leaves are small linear or sickle-shaped. The seeds are dispersed by the Kererū (New Zealand Pigeon), which eats the 'berries' and passes the seeds in its droppings.
- Although quite slimy the fruit are sweet and were eaten by early Māori.
Maori also traditionally used the gum as a lashing sealant and binder for attaching spear points to handles.
- The thin wiry juvenile timber branches were used for eel pot.
- When mataï was being felled for timber, bushmen drilled the base of standing trees to collect a sap known as mataī beer.
- The peak period of matai milling was in the 1950s where it was used for bridges, construction, framing, weatherboards, and bed plates for heavy machinery.
- The hard, reddish-brown wood made excellent flooring timber and window sills and was used extensively for such.
- Used for musical instruments due to its acoustic properties.
- The wishing tree of Matai Tapu on Hongi’s track: He who pays a fern-frond’s tribute at the root and walks around the crusty bole, shall have his secret wish fulfilled”. A Love of Trees – Grammaticus 1982
- The Goddess Hine Raukatauri is the casemoth who lives in her elongated cocoon that hangs from many native trees. The male casemoth pupates and flies away, but the female remains in her case. At night as the breeze blows through the cocoon, the call of the female moth to her lover is heard as a sweet but barely audible sound. This has been the inspiration for Maori flute music.
The Matai Cabinet draws its inspiration from:
- The action of drawing breath.
- The form of:
- The Pahu (an oval shaped slot Drum) traditionally made from matai.
- The Hinaki (eel pot) made with young matai branches.
- Surface texture reminiscent of the bark of the matai tree.
- A stylised cocoon form containing the subtle sound of the case moth as in the story of Hine Raukatauri.