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Tree Botanics

Puriri Previous

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Other Names: (Vitex lucens)

The puriri (Verbenaceae family) is a magnificent New Zealand native tree of very large dimensions, reaching heights of up to 20m, exhibiting an extensive lateral canopy spread and with a trunk of up to 1.5m diameter at full growth, that occurs in the upper half of the North Island.  Distribution within coastal and lowland areas from North Cape to Poverty Bay in the east and Cape Egmont in the west ranging from sea level to 760m. The smooth, thin light grey-brown bark is furrowed and distinctive.  The branchlets are four-angled. The compound leaves, a most distinctive identification feature, have 3 - 5 leaflets, the lowermost being the smallest of the set.  Leaves appear opposite, glossy, dark green in colour and are long-stemmed.  They measure approximately 5 cm - 12.5 cm in length X 3 - 5 cm wide and are furrowed along the veins giving a uniform ripple effect along the edges. Flowers are a pinkish red colour appearing from June - October but some can usually be seen during most of the year.  Approximately 2.5 cm long, they blossom in branched, axillary (of, relating to, or located in an axil - the upper angle between a lateral organ, such as a leafstalk, and the stem that bears it) 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 4 - 15 flowers.  The fruit appears as a bright red globular drupe (a fleshy fruit, such as a peach, plum, or cherry, usually having a single hard stone that encloses a seed.  Also called stone fruit), about 2 cm long. The timber/wood is very dense/hard and durable, a dark reddish brown in colour and was formerly one of the most valuable of New Zealand's hardwoods, however the puriri moth larva attacks the trunk boring large holes which limit its practical use.