Bush Survival – 7 New Zealand Edible Native Plants

New Zealand still is widely covered with native bush. Even in the major cities you don’t have to travel far to find some large stands.

So “going bush” is a popular pastime for many NZers. But there’s also many who just like to spend a bit of time in the bush without going full survivor man (or woman) and really roughing it.

This might include tramping, hiking or just doing the odd day walk. So in this case do you need to know much about NZ native plants and what they can be used for?

We’d say it can’t hurt. No one expects or plans to be lost in the bush but you just never know.

On top of this, being able to do a bit of the gathering part of hunter/gathering can give a sense of accomplishment, and in a pinch could be useful if the supermarket and veggie store shelves suddenly become empty.

So if you spend anytime at all in the outdoors, it’s worth knowing at least a little bit about what native plants are edible. It could come in handy. Here’s 6 worth knowing:

(You can click on the video image for each plant and it will go straight to the relevant section of the video.)

Bush Survival – 7 New Zealand Edible Native Plants



New Zealand Native Plants You Can Eat - Kawakawa

Via Fawn

Kawakawa has natural Antiseptic properties. It can be taken as a tea or tonic. The best parts to use are the new shoots or small young leaves. Those that have been eaten by insects will be good leaves to use and have stronger medicinal value. Also useful for relieving a toothache.


Pirita Vine (a.k.a. Supplejack)

New Zealand Native Plants You Can Eat - Pirita_Vine

Via Fawn

The supplejack/Pirita is very common through the NZ bush. But did you know that there is a fresh shoot on the top end of the vine that looks like an asparagus which can be eaten?

Break it off and you can eat the end piece raw. Has some moisture in it too so handy in a survival situation. It can also be steamed and or used in a salad.


PikoPiko a.k.a Fiddlehead fern

New_Zealand_Native_Plants_You_Can_Eat_-_PikoPiko a.k.a Fiddlehead fern

Via Fawn

The fresh shoots (with a spiral/koru shape) of the fiddlehead fern have a natural snapping point like asparagus. It can be eaten raw, steamed, stir fried, boiled or you can put it in bread if you want to go a bit “nouveau cuisine”.

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Wood Ear Mushroom (Kakite)


Via Fawn

We’re not sure these taste the greatest but at a push would provide some sustenance.


Cabbage Tree / Ti Kouka

Edible New_Zealand_Native_Plant_Ti_Kouka_Cabbage_Tree

Via Kiwi Bushcraft and Survival

Here’s an excellent one to know as the cabbage tree is found in abundance all over the country. The youngest shoot in the centre of a young plant can be eaten all year round.

Here's How to Be Sure You've Got Clean Fresh Water When Hiking in the Bush

The Sport Berkey Water Bottle means you can get drinking water from any water source. A river, pond, lake etc. Even if it’s murky looking. The built in water filter works in the same way as the larger Berkey Systems. So you’ll be sure to have clean fresh water wherever you go. Great for travelling too.


Karamu or Coprosma Robusta

Edible New_Zealand_Native_Plant_Karamu_or_Coprosma_Robusta

Via Kiwi Bushcraft and Survival

The Karamu has plentiful berries which turn orange when ripe and so can provide a good level of nourishment at certain times of year. Commonly seen too. A number of Native plants have berries which are poisonous, so a great idea to learn which are edible and which are not.


Harakeke (Flax)

Edible New_Zealand_Native_Plant_Harakeke__flax_

Via Kiwi Bushcraft and Survival

The sweet pollen can be easily gathered from the orange flowers. The Tui and Bellbirds love this for good reason.


Another Benefit in Knowing Some Edible Natives

There’s a side benefit to knowing a few edible native New Zealand plants. It’s something we look for in anything survival/ prep related and that is – an element of everyday use too.

These foods won’t just help you survive in the NZ bush, but you can also use them at home for some native kai!

Here’s a few recipes that Charles Royal (the maori chef discussing the first 4 plants) has on the Herald website that could be worth checking out:

Pikopiko bread as Charles features towards the end of the video:

Pikopiko pesto

Horopito Hummus

Foraging with Charles


Finding food in the bush is great. But in case you can’t, make sure you come prepared with some survival food…

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Have you got any other recommendations on edible Native plants? Or bushcraft/bush survival? Leave a comment below…

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