Piwakawaka Mini Te Mära Reo ~ The Language Garden
Casuarina equisetifolia. From PROTO AUSTRONESIAN *teRzas "a tree wih strong heartwood" through Proto-Oceanic *toRas "heartwood" and Proto Eastern Oceanic *tora "Intsia bijuga" (Fabaceae).


This is a very interesting word. By the Proto-Polynesian stage, it seems definitely to have become the name for the ironwood, and is used in that sense in most parts of Polynesia except Hawaii and Aotearoa. Although not related to each other or to the Casuarina botanically, the greeness of the Hawaiian koa and the Maori toatoa is shared with the tree to which the name seems to have been applied at an earlier stage of its evolution, the kwila, Intsia bijuga, with their flattened leaf-stalks functioning as leaves giving the Hawaiian and Maori trees an extra dimension in common with each other. All these trees have the common property of a very hard, durable, and economically important timber. The application of the name to the herb Haloragus erecta in Maori is a little puzzling, but probably no more so than the English pairing of pine trees with pineapples.

Kahikaatoa, the alternative name for the Mänuka (Leptospermum scoparium), could be interpreted as kahika having qualities similar to the toa. This could quite plausibly refer to the Casuarina, or the toa in this case could be a reference to the potential of the wood for making weapons for a warrior, from Proto-Polynesian *to'a "courageous; warrior", inherited also by Mäori as toa. The alternative name for one of the species of the Phyllocladus known in Aotearoa as toatoa (P. trichomanioides) is tänekaha, literally "strong man", which therefore resonates with both *toa as a tree name, and toa as a reference to strength and warlike qualities.

Tongan: Toa (Casuarina equisetifolia)
Niuean: Toa (C. equisetifolia)
Samoan: Toa (C. equisetifolia)
Tahitian: Toa (C. equisetifolia)
Marquesan: Toa (C. equisetifolia)
Hawaiian: Koa (Acacia koa [Fabaceae] )
Tuamotuan: Toa (C. equisetifolia)
Rarotongan: Toa (C. equisetifolia) Maori: Toatoa (Phyllocladus trichomanoides & P. glaucus [Podocarpaceae]; Haloragus erecta [Haloragaceae])

Note: The Casuarina (Ironwood) tree was introduced to Rarotonga from Tahiti. The Polynesians did not take it to Hawai'i; when it did arrive there in the 19th Century it was called paina ("pine").

Note: The tree-name kahikaatoa may also incorporate the Proto-Polynesian root *toa.

Casuarina equisteifolia

Casuarina equisteifolia, male flower

Casuarina equisteifolia, female flower

Intsia bijuga

Haloragis erecta

Phyllocladus trichomanoides [Toatoa]

Koa, Kauai
Regenerating Acacia koa [Koa], Waimea, Kauai'i, Hawai'i

Sources of Photographs: Casuarina tree: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Casuarina_equisetifolia_-_Darwin_NT.jpg (Photographer: Bidgee); Casuarina male & female flowers: http://zalitree.freewebpages.org/casuarina/casuarina.htm; Haloragis erecta: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Haloragis_erecta_2007-06-02_(flower).jpg (Magnus Manske, photographer); Toatoa: http://www.treknature.com/gallery/photo6242.htm; Koa: RB (mountainside near Kokee National Park, Waimea, Kauai'i)

Hue flower

Te Mära Reo, c/o Benton Family Trust, "Tumanako", RD 1, Taupiri, Waikato 3791, Aotearoa / New Zealand
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