Maori for the New Zealand flax plant (Phormium tenax) a large plant with blade-like leaves arranged in fans, the word also refers to items woven from the flax. Harakeke was traditionally prepared and woven by women, into items such as mats,bags (kete), and cloaks. This was a very important part of pre-european everyday living.
Harakeke can also be prepared in different ways. The leaves can be stripped to reveal the tough fibrous inner, known as muka. This was done using a mussel shell. The muka is then twisted to make a cord or string. This of course, has as many uses as string does. The long, woody flower stalk was also utilised by the Maori.
There is also another variety of New Zealand flax, Phormium cookianum, which is shorter and has droopier leaves, and is not used as frequently for weaving.