Hedycarya arborea (Pigeonwood)
Botanical name: Hedycarya arborea
Common name: Pigeonwood, Porokaiwhiri, Poporokaiwhiri
Hedycarya arborea (pigeonwood) is a small upright fragrant tree that grows to a maximum height of 12 metres and is common on forest margins. There is only one species of the genus in New Zealand.
It has ascending branches with a trunk with smooth bark up to 50cm diameter. The leaves are bright green (5-12cm x 2.5-5cm) can be elliptic or ovate, they are thick and leathery with saw toothed margins and distinct veins, have a shiny upper surface and dull underside.
For much of the year it is a rather drab plant, with its dark grey twigs and leathery green leaves. But in spring it flowers, and in summer, bright berries appear. Male and female flowers appear on separate plants. The male flowers are sweet-smelling and short-lived. The flowers have a green tinge, hairy and fleshy. The female flowers are 6mm across and the male flowers 10mm across. The pigeonwood berries are a bright orange groups are on radiating stalks..
The fruit are a favourite food of wood pigeons and of possums.
The tree is classed as poisonous by H.E.Conner ( The poisonous in New Zealand) The leaves contain an unidentified alkaloid and alkaloids have been shown to be present in the bark and the berries.
It was used in vapour baths.
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