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Tree Botanics

Manuka Previous

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Other Names: (Leptospermum scoparium) = Red Tea Tree

Manuka is one of the most common and best known small trees in New Zealand, ranging from shrub to intermediate tree at 8m in maximum physical height. It is found throughout the entire country in a diversity of environments from sea level to approximately 1370m, and depending on habitat the physical development and structural appearance vary as detailed. On older, more mature trees the bark is brown and is shed in long strips. Branchlets are silky with whitish hairs and the distinctive small leaves are 4 - 10mm long X 2- 6mm wide. The leaves are glabrous (smooth), close set, sharp pointed with oil glands which when bruised, give off a pungent and distinctive gingery smell. The small white, star-like 5-petalled flowers are produced from the leaf axils (the upper angle between a lateral organ, such as a leafstalk, and the stem that bears it), on short branchlets and are up to 1.6cm in diameter featuring a reddish central disc. Flowers bloom between the months of September - February, but are often seen in blossom out of season. It is also not uncommon to find variants where flowers are also flushed through with a pink hue. A woody, broad, bronze-grey capsule matures in April - May splitting open to release fine seeds. Manuka suffers badly from often fatal infestations of a scale insect. The red coloured timber is very hard and extremely durable, having been used to manufacture tool handles & fencing. In early colonial times it was often used to brew a tea-like drink/infusion, Captain Cook using it to great effect to combat the onset of scurvy. Wood also used for fires gives off an aromatic smoke useful in barabecues and curing. the infusions hold some antispetic/medicinal properties, and of course manuka honey is prized above all others for its healing/antibiotic properties. Both manuka and kanuka act as a nurse crop for young forest trees, providing shelter and cover/protection whilst saplings develop.