Phyllocladus trichomanoides (Tanekaha)
Species: P. trichomanoides
Botanical name: Phyllocladus trichomanoides
Synonym: Phyllocladus rhomboidalis
Common name: Tanekaha, Celery Pine
Phyllocladus trichomanoides is a monoecious pyramidal forest tree up to 20 m tall and >100 cm trunk diameter. It is native to New Zealand and is found from the North Cape south to northern Marlborough and Nelson districts in the South Island, in lowland forest up to 800 m above sea level.
It has slender spreading branches which arise in whorls.
The leaves are sparse, tiny, scale-like, 2–3 mm long, and only green (photosynthetic) for a short time, soon turning brown.
Most photosynthesis is performed by highly modified, leaf-like short shoots called phylloclades; these are arranged alternately, 10-15 on a shoot, the individual phylloclades rhombic, 1.5-2.5 cm long.
The seed cones are berry-like, with a fleshy white aril surrounding but not fully enclosing the single seed.
Like the Kauri, Phyllocladus trichomanoides shed their lower branches, producing smooth straight trunks and knot-free timber which is sought after for its strength. Its wood is the strongest and most flexible of the native conifers. Maori used the white timber for their canoes and houses, and for koikoi (double-pointed spears). Bark from this coniferous tree was beaten in a trough of water heated with stones, to make red-brown or black dye and walking sticks were fashioned from sturdy shoots.
Its branches are very supple and do not break if bent over, making the wood ideal for any function involving bending. Early European settlers use it as yacht masts and fishing rods. The wood was also used for marine piles, bridges, railway sleepers and for props in the northern coal and gold mines.
The bark is rich in tannin, from which Māori extracted a red dye. The tannic acid of the bark was a valuable astringent in dysentery. The leaves were used for scrofulous diseases. (From the writings of J.H. Kerry-Nicholls 1886).
Distrubution map. Thanks to Lawrie Metcalf
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