News article

Plant ID and Uses at the Enviroschools Hui April 15th 2021

The Southland Community Nursery supported Environment Southland’s Enviroschools hui at Omaui as many Southland Enviroschools came together to learn about Māori perspectives of our environment. Activities included flax weaving, traditional Māori games, the Aquavan, plant identification and Māori uses, as well as some art and a shared hangi.

We ran the plant identification and Māori uses activity. Our leaf bingo cards were used to match up leaves, with participants (children and adults alike) having to look closely at the features and characteristics of leaves. We also looked at some bark, seeds, berries and fruit that are also features of plants that can be used to help us identify plants in our ngahere. We then travelled back in time, to a time with no supermarket, or chemist, or pantry or fridge to open when hungry. Students learnt about their chosen plant and reported back to the group. We discovered that many parts of plants were used for food, for example the fruit of tōtara and kahikatea were collected to eat using baskets made from plants from the forest. Plants were also the food for bird species that were eaten, with the ngahere ecosystem providing in this way. Many plants were used as part of the maramataka (Māori lunar calendar) to indicate when would be a good time to plant, or fish or harvest. Wood from different plant species also had a variety of uses for food gathering, fishing, traps and food storage. And plants also had many medicinal uses, as well as personal, domestic and industrial use. It was noted that some species were once seen as indispensable to Māori life in NZ.

The day was fun and interactive, and we look forward to working with schools again.

Check out our Leaf Bingo resources at

  • Leaf Bingo - an easy and fun way to learn how to identify native plants.
  • Leaf Bingo Maori Uses - learn about traditional Māori uses for some of our native plants