Alectryon excelsus (Titoki)
Family: Sapindaceae (Soapberry family)
Species: A. excelsus
Scientific name: Alectryon excelsus
Common name: Titoki, New Zealand Ash, New Zealand Oak
The round black seeds are best avoided despite limited information on their toxicity. many plants in the same family are poisonous.
Titoki is an attractive tree (height 4 - 18 metres) found in lowland forests. It has attractive glossy dark green leaves and is tree with a spreading canopy. The Titoki tree seeds, hairy woody capsule that splits to reveal bright red fruit and black seed. The fruit can take up to a year to mature. These trees are attractive to bees, butterflies and birds.
The Maoris use to bruise the seeds and then steamed them to release oil. The oil was used for ear ache, for eye problems and as a lotion for a wide range of skin ailments including sore breasts, infant rashes, eczema, sores, sprains and wounds, rheumatism, swellings due to bites and stings. It was also highly valued as a general skin softener-conditioner and is used as a carrier for scents obtained from other plants such as tarata (Pittosporum eugenoides). The scarlet flesh surrounding the seeds is very astringent and was used by consumptive invalids.
Looking across the Te Henui stream towards Puketarata Pa at the historic Titoki trees fenced off in the paddock. These trees were very important to the Maori of this Pa.
A photo of younger tree with unopened capsules (November)
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