Know the native trees in Tawa reserves with Gil Roper – tree fuchsia, kōtukutuku

Tree fuchsia, kōtukutuku

Reputed to be the largest fuchsia in the world it grows up to 15m.

The Genus name Fuchsia is from the German botanist Leonhart Fuchs, (1501- 1566). The species name excorticata means ‘loose barked’ while tukutuku means ‘letting go’, so both names refer to the peeling bark.

Kotukutuku, Tree fuschia - Bark peeling from trunk
Bark peeling from trunk

It is an ‘oddball’ NZ native tree because it:

  • is deciduous, when growing in temperate to cold locations
  • has orange-brown bark that peels off
  • has dense and durable wood with high water storing capacity (‘bucket-of-water’ tree)
  • bears purple flowers with blue pollen that form on woody branches (termed ‘cauliflory’)
  • is ‘gynodioecious’ meaning it has separate hermaphrodite (male and female) parts in flowers and those with female parts. One tree will have female flowers while another, bisexual flowers.

Also, did you know?

  • nectar from flowers is sought by tūī, kererū, korimako (bellbirds) and tauhou (silvereyes). Tūī have their black heads covered in blue pollen when they have visited flowers
  • dark purple sweet fruit, (kōnini) were eaten by Māori, and Europeans used the fruit for jam
  • leaves are soft with a green upper side and a white lower side
  • the bark contains tannins and was used as a natural agent in tanning leather as well as for dyes
  • the introduction of possums to NZ resulted in a steep decline of this species as trees were killed by defoliation. With possum control in recent years, the kōtukutuku in Tawa Bush Reserves are growing better.

Article Source: Gil Roper December 2021 Newsletter

Published by Friends of Tawa Bush

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