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


Pentachondra pumila (Little Mountain heath)

Kingdom: Plantae
(Unranked): Angiosperms
(Unranked): Eudicots
(Unranked): Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Ericaceae
Genus: Pentachondra
Species: P. pumila
Binomial name: Pentachondra pumila
Common name: Little Mountain heath, Carpet heath, Cushion bog, Carpet frillyhead

This dwarf, much-branched, creeping shrub has hard and tough deep- or bluish-green leaves that are tiny in size (a maximum of 5 mm long by 2 mm wide).
The small, whitish, honey scented  flowers which appear November to January are borne singly near the tips of the branchlets.
The fruits are bright red, berry-like, 5-6 mm in diameter, hollow inside and with five or more small nutlets which can take two seasons to ripen.  Pentachondra pumila fruits are edible raw or cooked and are sweet and watery. 
It is found in Australia and New Zealand in its preferred habitat which is bogs, but can be found in other habitats such as snow-tussock grasslands and alpine herb-fields where it forms dense patches or low hummocks. The patches are usually 2-4 cm thick and vary from 30-40 cm or more across. In New Zealand it grows in the three main islands in subalpine to low-alpine areas (600-1500 metres). It is very common in the South and Stewart Islands, but rare north of East Cape in the North Island. Present on Mt Egmont/Taranaki.

Photographed Mt Egmont/Taranaki February.