Melicytus ramiflorus (Mahoe)
Species: M. ramiflorus
Binomial name: Melicytus ramiflorus
Common name: Mahoe, Whitey wood.
Melicytus ramiflorus is a small tree of the family Violaceae endemic to New Zealand. It grows up to 10 metres high with a trunk up to 60 cm in diameter, it has smooth, whitish bark and brittle twigs.
The dark-green "alternate" leaves are 5-15 cm long and 3-5 cm wide and their edges are finely serrated (although this feature is less pronounced in younger plants).
The plants are dioecious and the small flowers are yellowish in colouration, between 3 and 4 mm in diameter and occur in fascicles, growing straight out from naked twigs- these flowers have a strong, pleasant fragrance. The berries are a striking violet colour when ripe and are more or less spherical with a diameter of between 3 and 4 mm. Flowering occurs in late spring and on into summer while the berries appear later on in summer and also in autumn. The berries of this small tree are eaten by a number of native birds, including Kereru, Tui and geckos of the genus Naultinus. The Melicytus ramiflorus is insect pollinated with midges, gnats, hover flies, butterflies, bees and ants. Mahoe is ubiquitous throughout lower altitude New Zealand forests and is frequently seen in areas of regenerating forest.
Melicytus ramiflorus was one of the woods Maori would utilise to create fire. The Maori made his fire by friction, and used Te hika ahi (the fire plough) to get his fire. Two pieces of wood which had been thoroughly dried were used. One the kauahi or lower stick, a piece of Mahoe was generally 14 to 18 inches long, 2 or 3 inches wide, and 1 to 2 inches thick. This was very soft wood, and the stick could be used on both sides. The other piece of wood used was Te hika. The rubbing stick made from Kaikomako (Pennantia corymbosa) a very hard compact and durable wood.
Thanks to the web site http://www.bushmansfriend.co.nz f or the information in the above paragraph. This site also has more details on the generation of fire by the Maori.
Melicytus ramiflorus shows ramiflory or the production of flowers directly from the branches. November
The developing berries still green. December.
The blue berries of the Mahoe tree. Photographed mid February
Serrated leaves of Melicytus ramiflorus