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Tree Botanics

Mahoe Previous


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Other Names: (Melicytus ramiflorus) = Whitey-Wood

This member of the Violaceae family is one of the most prevalent trees in New Zealand forest areas throughout the country except in much of the Southland where it is superseded by its relative M. lanceolatus (Mahoewa).  It also occurs frequently as a regenerative tree in scrub-lands, and can be found in lowland and montane/subalpine forests from sea level to approximately 900m. It presents as a handsome bushy tree growing up to 10m in overall physical height with a narrower trunk reaching diameters of 60cm.  It is often multi-branched from the basal stem, and young branchlets are very soft & brittle. The bark is a greyish-white in colour. Leaves are alternate, 5cm - 13cm long, short-stemmed, bluntly toothed and usually a darker green in colour though this may vary; in early summer leaves appear a yellowish-green hue.  Perfect skeleton leaves are often found directly below a mahoe tree making this a key identifying feature. The mahoe flowers from September onwards, the small greenish-yellow blossoms appearing in bunches on the stems below the leaves, in clusters of 2 - 10 & very commonly from along the bare branchlets.  Flowers present as 5-petalled measuring 3 - 4mm across. The small berries ripen to a violet-blue (varying to a dark blackish purple) colour from February onwards, are approximately 5mm in diameter and are 3 - 6 seeded. In the past, during dry seasons, the foliage has been used as cattle fodder.  Mahoe wood was used by pre-European Maori for generating fire by friction.