T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Corynocarpus laevigatus (Karaka)

Division: Magnoliophyta 
Class: Magnoliopsida 
Order: Celastrales 
Family: Corynocarpaceae 
Genus: Corynocarpus
Species: C. laevigatus
Scientific Name: Corynocarpus laevigatus
Common Name: Karaka


This plant is poisonous
Visit http://www.terrain.net.nz/friends-of-te-henui-group/plants-toxic-if-eaten-by-man.html

The bold, glossy leaves of this broadleaf tree make the karaka a distinctive feature of the coastal forest of the North Island and the upper part of the South Island. The masses of large orange fruits produced by it in the autumn add to its attractiveness. It is a tree endemic to New Zealand and the Kermadec and Chatham Islands, and belongs to a very small family containing the single genus Corynocarpus. Seldom growing more than 30 - 40 ft high, it fits into the general level of the low canopy of coastal forest. It sometimes occurs sparsely further inland in lowland forest.
The shining leaves grow up to 20 cm long and are generally elliptic in shape.
Berries are 2.5-3.8 cm long and oval with a pulpy exterior and a harder internal seed.
The wood is white and easily split but is not used except in the Chatham Islands where it has formed one of the main supplies of the small amount of timber used there. In spite of the fact that the seed contains an alkaloid, "karakine", that is highly poisonous, the berries were a valued source of food for the Maoris. The tree was, in fact, planted by them especially for food supplies and was one of the very few native trees raised artificially by the Maoris. The poisonous principle was got rid of by prolonged cooking and washing.

 

Flowers early September flowers and flower buds








Young fruit November
  

Karaka fruit from the previous year (November)

Karaka with fruit still green (early January)

Karaka with fruit (Late January)




A upper surface leaf of Karaka.


The underside of a leaf.

Karaka fruit germinating after falling to the ground.


Two germinating Karaka fruits. One top right and one bottom left. There are also two small Karaka trees from previous years crops.