Story: Pacific migrations

‘Taputini’ – a traditional kūmara cultivar

‘Taputini’ – a traditional kūmara cultivar

The large kūmara (sweet potato) available in supermarkets are quite different from the more slender varieties that Polynesians brought with them to New Zealand. Kūmara were the most successful introduced crop, flourishing in northern, coastal areas. However, they were marginal in the colder central North Island and the South Island. They came originally from South America and were being grown and eaten in the Cook Islands by 1000 CE. It is possible, but not proven, that Polynesian seafarers had made round trips to South America by this time.

Using this item

The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand - Kuratini Tuwhera
Photograph by Graham Harris

This item has been provided for private study purposes (such as school projects, family and local history research) and any published reproduction (print or electronic) may infringe copyright law. It is the responsibility of the user of any material to obtain clearance from the copyright holder.

All images & media in this story

How to cite this page:

Geoff Irwin, 'Pacific migrations - The world’s first seafarers', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 14 April 2024)

Story by Geoff Irwin, published 8 Feb 2005, reviewed & revised 8 Feb 2017