Our native plants: Golden tainui

Also known as gumdigger’s soap, Pomaderris kumeraho is a shrub of about 3m tall. The name ‘gumdigger’s soap’ is because the pioneer-era diggers of kauri gum (amber) in Northland used the flowers and leaves as a soap – rubbing them between wet hands to create a lather.

The plant flowers prolifically in spring and grows naturally in poor soils from Auckland north. See photos of the sunshine-yellow flowers here.

Golden tainui in bud – the cream-coloured buds open to sunshine yellow flowers. Photo: Sandra Simpson

There are many other members of the Pomaderris family, including P. apetala (tainui) which is mentioned in Maori legend – a green bough used as flooring in the Tainui canoe grew at the first place a camp was made in Aotearoa, near the mouth of the Mokau River in Taranaki. The inference is that it came from elsewhere in Polynesia but research has discovered that P. apetala is native only to New Zealand and Australia.

Lawrie Metcalf in his Cultivation of New Zealand Trees & Shrubs (Raupo, 2011) notes that the New Zealand native is now called P. apetala ssp maritime and is regularly confused with the very similar P. aspera, which is native to Tasmania but has become naturalised in several parts of New Zealand.

The authors of Gardening with New Zealand Plants, Shrubs and Trees (Collins, 1988) recommend P. phylicifolia as a small, flower-covered garden shrub that is drought tolerant.

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