Know the native trees in Tawa reserves with Gil Roper – Myrsine australis, red matipo, māpou, māpau

Red matipo leaves Forest of Tawa June 2022

Source of names:

‘Ma’ = free of tapu, ‘pou’ = stick. Young plants are used for ceremonial purposes such as karakia.

red matipo Forest of Tawa 06_22_01
Distinctive leaves and branches of māpou tree

Special Features

  • an endemic shrub growing up to 6m tall, they are very obvious because of their young reddish-brown stems that bear pale green leaves that have a leathery texture and wavy edges
  • leaves are alternate on stems with leaf blades covered in round, translucent glands
  • small white to purple flowers grow in clusters directly on the stem
  • oval fruit, are initially green, but become dark brown to black. At this stage they are eaten by kererū, tūī, tauhou (silvereye) and korimako (bellbird). These birds also naturally disperse the seeds once digestion has occurred.

Māori use

In Māori tradition, it is rākau tapu (sacred tree), and its main use was ceremonial. Māori also boiled leaves as a general tonic, as a tea infusion for treating toothache, and to relieve arthritic problems, as well as a remedy for skin disease. Hard woody branches were also used as digging sticks and for adze handle sockets. Early Europeans also used  the hard timber for building.

Here are some images of Red Matipo in the Forest of Tawa.

Article Source: Gil Roper FOTBR Newsletter June 2022

Published by Friends of Tawa Bush

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