Laurelia novae-zelandiae (Pukatea)
Species: L. novae-zelandiae
Scientific name: Laurelia novae-zelandiae
Common name: Pukatea
Laurelia novae-zelandiae (Pukatea) can grow to a height of 40 m and the only New Zealand native tree developing large plank-buttresses and towers above the canopy trees. These thin triangular flanges extend up the trunk and along the roots support the tree's growth in swamp or shallow-soil areas.
L. novae-zelandiae also has a specialised respiratory root structures called pneumatophores (roots above the ground) in certain waterlogged ground or mud. The tree's trunk is clean and straight and can obtain diameter >2m.
Laurelia novae-zelandiae is found from sea level to 600 metres throughout the North Island, and in the South Island in Marlborough and on the west coast as far south as Fiordland in lowland semi-swamp and gully areas. It is common in gullies around New Plymouth.
The leaves are elliptic, opposite and are thick leathery with coarse blunt serrations. They are bright green with serrated leaf margins, a glossy top surface and pale underneath (4-8cm x 2.5-5cm). The young leaves are a light green and the adult leaves are darker.
It has small (6mm) green flowers on flower stalks up to 3cm long during October to November. The genus Laurelia is unusual, with both sexes separate on the same tree, and occasionally together on the same flower.
After flowering it develops urn shaped seed cases up to 2.5cm long which split and release hair-covered seeds which are dispersed by the wind.
In the past the light but tough timber of Laurelia novae-zelandiae has been used for boat building.
An extract from the bark containing the alkaloid pukateine is used in traditional Maori herbal medicine as an analgesic.
Photo taken at 39 3'39.5 S 174 5'43.6 E Datum WGS-84
Top surface of a leaf
A bisextual flower . The fluffy cluster at the centre are stigmas and with stames around the side. Some of these are changing to a red/brown colour showing that they are fertile.
Buttress and trunk
The photos below are of Pukatea breathing roots projecting above the forest floor. These are called pneumatophores. This is a specialized root of certain swamp plants, such as the mangrove, that branches upwards, rising above ground, and undergoes gaseous exchange with the atmosphere.
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