Found in abundance throughout the North Island. Attractive orange candle-like berries make quite a feature.
Macropiper excelsum, also known as Kawakawa is a small aromatic tree that is endemic to the North and South Islands. Found distributed from Te Paki south to about Okarito, North Canterbury and Banks Peninsula. The small tree/shurb can reach a height of 5m and can be easily distinguished by its heart shaped bright green leaves that often have holes in them caused by insects. It also has distinctive dark brown, zigzag branches that are swollen at the nodes. The root, fruit, seeds and especially the leaves of the Kawakawa plant were favourite medicinal remedies of the New Zealand Maori. From August to November the plant produces tiny flowers off spikes. Fleshy fruiting spikes appear on the female plant between January and February, turning a yellow to orange colour on maturity and providing food for native birds.
In terms of planting Kawakawa does best in dappled light, within a free draining but permanently moist or rich soil. It is very shade tolerant and is one of few natives that will still grow dense in this condition. Cold sensitive and will not tolerate frost but will tolerate exposed conditions once established.
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