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


Melicytus alpinus (Porcupine shrub)

Kingdom:   Plantae
(Unranked):        Angiosperms
(Unranked):        Eudicots
(Unranked):        Rosids
Order:       Malpighiales
Family:      Violaceae
Genus:      Melicytus
Species:  M. alpinus
Binominal name: Melicytus alpinus
Synonyms:  Hymenanthera dentata var. alpine, Hymenanthera alpina
Common name:  Porcupine shrub, Mahoe Porcupine Shrub

Melicytus alpinus is an almost leafless slow-growing native shrub of coastal and/or dry alpine areas of the southern North Island and the South Island.
Melicytus alpinus has stiff interlacing stems and it will grow to a dense shrub up to 1m high and 2m wide. It gets its common name because the external branches looking very much like the silvery quills of a porcupine. The bulk of the leaves are held within the canopy, an adaptation that helps decrease heat and drought stress in extreme climates. This resilient species is one of the last bastions of native vegetation in the heavily modified landscapes of the South Island high country.
In spring to early summer it produces amongst its small weather resistant leathery leaves masses of tiny pendulous cream flowers followed by relatively sizeable blue-splashed white berries.
M. alpinus is a habitat for native lizards which return the protection it provides by helping disperse the seeds by eating the fleshy berries.

Photopgraphed at Otari Wilton Bush Reserve, Wellington.