Pennantia corymbosa (Kaikomako)
Scientific name: Pennantia corymbosa
Common name: Kaikomako, Bellbird tree, Duck's foot, (after the juvenile leaf)
Kaikomako is a small dioecious tree which grows to a height of 10metres and is found in lowland forests and forest margins, often on stream banks. It is a canopy tree with a slender trunk. Like many young trees in New Zealand Kaikomako has a juvenile growth form very different to the adult. The juvenile plant is shrubby with wide angled, spreading, intertangled branches (divaricating) and small leaves.
Each juvenile leaf has three to five lobes pointing forward, with the lower part of the leaf tapering to a short leaf stalk. These leaves lose the distinctive shape (duck foot) of their juvenile years, becoming larger, with many rounded teeth. Juvenile leaves are smaller (7-15mm x 5-10mm) than the thick, leathery adult leaves (2-10cm x 1-4cm).
Eventually one stem will predominate, growing upwards and developing the larger adult leaves. Many trees have the juvenile leaves lower down and adult leaves above. When growing in the open, Kaikomako will reach 2-3m before making an abrupt change to adult form. It will reach a mature heigth of 8m.
Panicles of scented small white flowers appear as the tree matures. They are fragrant, creamy white flowers with five petals growing in panicles 4-8cm long, when the tree is in full flower (November to February) they almost obscure the foliage. Functional male and female flowers are borne on separate plants and are wind pollinated.
Later shiny black drupe, 8-9mm long on female tree appear mid summer and through to autumn. They are favourite food of bellbird and korimako.
In Taranaki Kaikomako is sometimes attacked by black fungus that occurs on beech trees.
The wood of this tree was used by the Maori for starting fires. A sharp pointed stick was rubbed vigorously along a groove in a dry piece of Pata shrub or Mahoe tree to make fire.
Photographed at Otari Wilton Bush Reserve Wellington.