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

Hedycarya arborea (Pigeonwood)

Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Magnoliids
Order: Laurales
Family: Monimiaceae
Genus: Hedycarya
Botanical name: Hedycarya arborea
Synonyms: Hedycarya dentate, Hedycarya scabra, Zanthoxylum novae-zelandiae.
Common name: Pigeonwood,  Porokaiwhiri, Poporokaiwhiri 

Hedycarya arborea is a common understorey tree in conifer–broadleaf forest. It grows to a maximum height of 16metres. It is common on margins of lowland and montane forests throughout the North Island and warmer parts of the South Island. This is the only species of the Hedycarya genus in New Zealand. 

Hedycarya arborea has ascending branches with a trunk up to up to 50cm diameter, with smooth, dark to almost black bark. 
It has thick, leathery, bright green leaves are 5-12.5cm long by 2-5 – 5 cm wide with coarse margins and distantly spaced teeth. They can be can be elliptic or ovate and have distinct veins, a shiny upper surface and dull underside.
Hedycarya arborea is dioecious (has male and female trees). 
During October and November, many flowered branched racemes are produced from the leaf axils. 
The fleshy sweet-smelling, hairy male flowers (8-12mm across) have a green tinge, and they are short-lived.
The female flowers are 6mm across. 
During October to February berries develop in groups on radiating stalks. A first they are green and they ripen to a bright orange. The berries are oval, about 1cm long and are a favourite food of wood pigeons and of possums.

The tree is classed as poisonous by H.E.Conner (Poisonous Plants in New Zealand) and it is listed in FDA Poisonous Plant Database. The leaves contain unidentified alkaloids that have been shown to be present in the bark and the berries (Cambie 1976, 1988). These known to cause poisoning to stock ((Allan 1944, notes on fodder value of New Zealand trees and shrubs). 

Fragrant male flowers

Closeup top view of a male flower. Green tepals surround a disc of sessile (have no stalk) stamens. 

The top view.of a fragrant female flower. Each ovary bears a fleshy conical style.

Green unripe berries on a female plant

A photo of a tree with ripe berries taken 1st February on the Porirua walkway to Colonial knob (Wellington).

Green and ripe orange berries.

Thanks to Wikipedia for text and information http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/