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Best uses

Best used as a screen or a native specimen tree. Can also incorporate it into a mixed native planting but may need pruning to keep small enough.

Physical characteristics

A bushy evergreen shrub that grows to around 7m tall and 4m wide but can be pruned to be kept smaller.

Flowers and foliage

Fragrant clusters of red flowers bloom from August to October. Flowers are followed by capsules of seeds that split in two to show black sticky seeds when ripe. Leaves are bright green leathery smooth and oval.

Preferred site

Prefers full sun and well-draining soil. It can tolerate most conditions, especially coastal sites.

Preparation for planting

Always choose healthy well grown plants and plant after autumn rains as the soil is moist and warm and allows plants to become established before winter. This enables them to withstand dry periods during the following summer. Young plants may require thorough watering during dry periods over the first two or three years. Mulching helps to conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Planting success is often improved on clay soils by adding extra topsoil and raising beds. Incorporate coarse sand bark compost or other organic material to improve soil structure.

Before planting ensure the root ball is saturated and remove the planter bag or pot with minimal root disturbance. Trim any broken roots and plant at the same level as in the container. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the root ball and firm in and water once planted. Make sure plants are watered well until established if planting in a drier period. Plant with some general slow release fertiliser and then every spring apply an organic based fertiliser such as blood and bone at a handful per square meter as new growth begins.

For hedges select small plants as they will establish faster than larger ones and can be pruned to shape from an early stage. Planting a double staggered row of hedging plants will result in a denser screen.

Maintenance tips

Mulching annually helps suppress weeds and conserve moisture. Organic materials such as sawdust and bark contribute to soil structure as they decompose but keep deep mulching material away from the main stems They benefit from a dressing (50g/m2) of general purpose fertiliser in early spring as new growth begins this will encourage more vigorous healthy growth. Sprinkle evenly and work into the top 2 to 3cm of the soil taking care not to damage surface roots.

The first summer and autumn after planting is critical for young plants; water thoroughly during dry periods. Pests and diseases can have serious debilitating effects on young plants so check regularly.

Prune young hedges in their first year after planting to ensure even dense growth. Hedges planted in autumn should be cut back by a half during late spring. Trim again lightly in late summer. During the second winter (or in early spring) trim moderately to remove half the previous seasons new growth. Feed hedges at least once a year with a balanced fertiliser ideally in early spring. Keep your hedge looking good with regular trimming. Fast growing hedges benefit from more frequent trimming.

Ecological and biodiversity benefits

Fruit is a food source for birds.
'tataka a tree producing turpentine; a parasite attaches itself to the root of this tree; it has no leaves stalk is covered with brown scales, petals tinged with brown but general colour dirty white and transparent, stamens white flowers smell strong.' (Taylor 1870) The parasite referred to is Dactylanthus taylori. It grows on the roots of about 30 native broadleaved trees and shrubs.

Pests and diseases

Relatively pest and disease-free.

Location at Auckland Botanic Gardens

Native Identification Trail

Interesting facts and tips

Maori used the sap of some as a personal scent and also as a type of glue.