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Member of the Cornacea (Dogwood) family, this small tree (reaching heights of up to 8m) usually commences life as an epiphyte (a plant, such as a tropical orchid or a staghorn fern, that grows on another plant upon which it depends for mechanical support but not for nutrients. Also called aerophyte, air plant.) on a large tree within the forest canopy, such as a rimu and gradually sends a root (or roots) down to the ground. Once grounded, the root system establishes itself and the puka is able to grow as an individual, independent tree. The descending roots have quite a thick and corky ridged bark as does the main stem. The puka is distributed in lowland forests throughout New Zealand. It is more common in the North Island and on the west coast of the South Island, and is very local to the east of the main divide. The leaves of the puka are 7.5 - 20cm long X 6 - 12.5cm wide. They are wide, large and glossy, very thick with markedly unequal sides at the base. They appear bright green/yellow-green above and are pale beneath. The panicles (a branched cluster of flowers in which the branches are racemes - an inflorescence having stalked flowers arranged singly along an elongated unbranched axis, as in the lily of the valley) of small green flowers are produced from the leaf axils & appear between the months of October - November; female flowers are formed without petals. Fruits are fleshy approximately 8mm long & ripen to purplish-black about March time, usually single-celled with a solitary seed. The puka is also known as akapuka.