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Tree Botanics

Titoki Previous

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Other Names: (Alectryon excelsus) New Zealand Oak

The Titoki is a medium-sized tree, reaching heights of up to 12m, member of the Sapindaceae (Soap-Berry) family, and is found in coastal and lowland forests of the North & South Islands.  It is often seen as a shelter tree line on farmland.  It tends to favour river flats & sometimes forms isolated groves. The bark appears black and roughened, the trunk able to reach dimensions of up to 60cm in diameter. The leaves range from 10cm - 30cm in length & have 4 - 6 pairs of leaflets.  Young leaves and shoots appear velvety brown, the mature leaf a deep shiny green in colour on the upper surface, pale underneath.  They are pinnate & alternate in configuration, the margins may be toothed or more or less entire. The small, dull reddish-brown furry flowers appear in loose sprays in January.  Green seed capsules mature about October time, the seeds may take up to a year to ripen & are enclosed within a two-valved brown furry capsule.  When ripe, the capsule splits in half to reveal a jet black seed partially enclosed within a vivid red, fleshy aril (an exterior covering or appendage of some seeds (as of the yew) that develops after fertilization as an outgrowth from the ovule stalk) or receptacle (somewhat like an oak cup holding the acorn). The Maori extracted an oil from these seeds in times gone by and birds readily eat the seeds aiding dispersal/distribution.