Source of names:
Rangiora is a member of the Aster family of plants (Asteraceae) and includes asters, daisies and sunflowers. Brachyglottis means ‘short tongue’ and refers to the small size of the ray florets within the flowers. The species name repanda means ‘undulating edges’ and refers to the margins of the broad leaves. The Māori word ‘Rangiora’ is from rangi = ‘sky’ and ‘ora’ = living or health. The other name often used is ‘pukapuka’, which is a similar word for paper and could refer to the paper-like quality of the underside of leaves where a biro can be used to write notes.
Endemic to New Zealand, rangiora shrubs are easily distinguished by the very large, leathery leaves with the undulating and scalloped margins. The green upperside has well-defined dark veins, while on the underside, leaves are distinctively white, soft and furry and the petioles are distinctly grooved.
Flowers and seed
The large white inflorescences that are clearly visible, have fragrant creamy-coloured flowers that develop seeds which produce ‘parachute-like’ attachments to assist their dispersal by wind.
All parts of rangiora plants are toxic due to pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are concentrated in the growing tips, flowers and the sap.
Māori used leaves as an external antiseptic when these were applied to wounds and ulcerated sores. Leaves were also wrapped around food in preparation for a hangi. The soft white underside of leaves could be used as notepaper and toilet paper (often called the ‘bushman’s friend’). With the distinctive white underside of leaves, these, like the silver underside of the ponga/silver fern fronds, could be used to provide guidelines for tracks in the bush to avoid becoming lost. Exuded gum from plant tissue was chewed for foul breath but not swallowed.
Article Source: Gil Roper FOTBR Newsletter December 2022