*Puka [Proto Polynesian]


A name applied generically to a select number of species having in common a littoral or damp habitat and relatively large leaves, including, among others: Meryta sinclairii "Puka" (Araliaceae), and Griselinia lucida "Puka, Akapuka" (Griseliniaceae).


Puka is the primary name for the two species mentioned above. Alternative names are noted in the entries for the various species sharing the designation "Puka" in the commentaries on individual species: Griselinia lucida, Syzygium maire, and Muhlenbeckia australis . Puka is also an alternative name for the introduced wild cabbage, Brassica oleracea, Cruciferae, also known as nanī, rearea, hāria, nīko and paea.

From PROTO EASTERN OCEANIC *buka, "Large littoral trees, including Pisonia species (Nyctagynaceae), and Gyrocarpus americanus (Hernandiaceae) ",
through PROTO CENTRAL PACIFIC *buka, As for Proto Eastern Oceanic, but expanded to include Hernandia nymphaefolia (Hernandiacae).
to PROTO POLYNESIAN *puka, "A general term (taxon) for large littoral trees, notably including Pisonia grandis (Nyctagynaceae), along with Hernandia nymphaefolia and Gyrocarpus americanus (Hernandiaceae)".

Reserved for a photograph -
(Watch this space!)
Reserved for a photograph -
(Watch this space!)

Tongan: Puko (Pisonia grandis, Nyctagynaceae and Hernandia nymphaefolia, "Lantern tree", Hernandiaceae).
Niuean: Puka tea (Pisonia grandis, Nyctagynaceae).
Samoan: Pu'a (Hernandia nymphaefolia, "Chinese lantern tree", Hernandiaceae).
Tikopia: Puka (Hernandia nymphaefolia, "Lantern tree", Hernandiaceae).
Marquesan: Puka (Hernandia nukuhivensis, Hernandiaceae).
Tahitian: Puka (Passiflora foetida "love-in-a-mist", Passifloraceae).
Tuamotuan: Puka (Pisonia grandis, Nyctagynaceae).
Rarotongan: Puka (Hernandia nymphaefolia "Chinese lantern tree ", Hernandiaceae; Pisonia grandis [a.k.a Puka tea], Nyctaginaceae).

Pukapuka (Reduplicated form of Puka): Brachyglottis repanda "Rangiora", Asteraceae -- see below for further information about this tree.
Kāpuka (Griselinia littoralis, "Kāpuka", Griseliniaceae);
Pukatea (Puka + tea "white" Species name, "Common name", Familyaceae) [also cognates in Niuean, Rarotongan and Tuamotuan];
Akapuka (Aka "vine" + Puka) Griselinia lucida, "Puka, akapuka", Griseliniaceae - see below.

Watch this space! This page is still very much under construction. However, it contains the essential linguistic and botanical information, to which both text and pictures will be added progressively as soon as time permits. See the first item in the "News" page for more information.

After its arrival in Aotearoa this word seems to have retained its historical status as a vaguely generic term applied mainly to selected trees growing in littoral or damp environments, in lieu of or in addition to another, more sharply focused name.

The Puka pa excellence (it has no alternative name), Meryta sinclairii [... more to come!]

The Puka also known as Akapuka, Griselinia lucida [... more to come!]

Puka in the form of the tree Syzygium maire, "Swamp maire", is better known under the name of Maire tawake [... more to come!]

Puka as a vine: finally, in this lineup of Puka, is the vine Muhlenbeckia australis, the large-leaved Muhlenbeckia, which also seems to have puka as its primary name. [... more to come!]

 Pukapuka (Brachyglottis repanda, Asteraceae)

This large-leaved shrub is generally known as Rangiora. Its aliases include, besides pukapuka, kōuaha, pukariao, raurākau, raurēkau, whārangi and whārangi-tawhito. The milky-white undersides of its leaves like like the pages of a book (giving an indigenous ambience to the use of the homophonous word pukapuka to translate the English "book"); similarly the name whārangi, reflecting the "spread-out" nature of the leaf, has also come to be used for sheets of paper or pages of a book.

References and further reading: See linked pages and general works on NZ trees and other plants in the bibliography.

Photographs: Details when they are in place! Meanwhile try the NZPCN website.

Reserved for photograph - yet to come
(Aroha mai!)
Reserved for photograph - yet to come
(Aroha mai!)

Te Mära Reo, c/o Benton Family Trust, "Tumanako", RD 1, Taupiri, Waikato 3791, Aotearoa / New Zealand. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License