New Zealand Plants and their Story
Certain New Zealand plants possess two kinds of names—popular and scientific. The former are either English or Maori. The English names are for the most part those which have been given by the early settlers, partly from some likeness, real or fancied, to the plants of their native land, and partly from some peculiar characteristic of the species in question. To this latter category belong such names as lacebark, ribbonwood, spiderwood, milk-tree, pincushion-plant; and to the former, birch, ash, honeysuckle. Some names have been bestowed for jocular reasons—e.g., lawyer, wild-irishman, spaniard, and nigger-head. Finally, a few are the work of botanists who have sought, vainly for the most part, to bring into use a nomenclature that should have a more correct English equivalent for the scientific name—e.g., speedwell for Veronica, groundsel for Senecio, palm-lily instead of cabbage-tree, beech instead of birch, &c. Some English names are corruptions of Maori ones, as biddy-biddy for piripiri, cracker for karaka, maple for mapou. This origin of names is quite an interesting study in recent word-making, and is well worth investigating.
The Maoris, living as they did in constant touch with nature, possessed much more knowledge of the vegetable products of New Zealand than do most of their more enlightened, but in some respects degenerate, white brethren. For all the more common trees and shrubs the Maoris have names. But both Maori and English names are used loosely, some being applied to more than one species, or having a different signification in different districts. Akeake is applied to Dodonea viscosa, Olearia Traversii and O. avicenniaefolia; koromiko page 154is the name for several species of Veronica; toetoe is the name for a large number of grasslike plants, and totara for the lofty taxad equally with the dwarf heath Styphelia Fraseri. Other instances could be given, but these will suffice. Further, many plants have neither a Maori nor an English name. From the above it may be seen that the popular names are of no use when we wish to make an accurate list of even the seed-plants of any locality, and that names having a definite application must be used. For this reason the scientific names have been designed.