Pisonia brunoniana (Parapara)
(Unranked): Core eudicots
Species: Pisonia brunoniana
Binomial name: Pisonia brunoniana
Binomial name of variegated form: Pisonia brunoniana 'Variegata'
Synonyms: Pisonia sinclairii, Pisonia umbellifera, Heimerliodendron brunonianum.
Common name: Bird-catching tree, Parapara, Variegated Parapara,
Pisonia brunoniana is native to Northland New Zealand, Norfolk Island, Lord Howe Island and Hawaii. In New Zealand it grows in coastal forests on Raoul Island in the Kermadec group, on the Three Kings Islands, and in the North Island in scattered locations from Whangape Harbour to Mangawhai. It is now mainly found on offshore islands, especially rodent-free islands, where it often forms an important understory component of mixed-broadleaf forest.
The variegated form P. brunoniana 'Variegata' is growing on the Horton Walk in Pukekura Park, New Plymouth.
The tree is almost extinct in the North Island, partly because the large leaves of P. brunoniana are eagerly eaten by browsing animals such as possums, goats and feral cattle. However the main threat to accessible populations is the cutting down of trees by people trying to prevent small songbirds from becoming trapped by the sticky seeds.
It is a small, spreading tree to 6 metres or more tall. The wood is soft and the branches are brittle. The large leaves are opposite or ternate, glabrous, and glossy, entire, and obtuse to round at apex.
The inflorescence is paniculata (a branched cluster of flowers in which the branches are racemes), with many flowers which are unisexual.
The seeds of P. brunoniana turn black and become sticky as they ripen. They narrowly ellipsoidal 2–3 centimetres long and have five ribs. These seeds are too long for a bird to swallow but with the adhesive on them they adhere to the bird’s feathers and are carried away. The birds come to the tree because the tree produces a pheromone odour that attracts insects. The insects get stuck on the seeds and this in turn attracts hungry birds.
Some birds do get ensnared in the bunches of the slender sticky seeds and because of this bird rescue people have been in the forefront of protests about Pisonia brunoniana. Observations made by botanists over many years suggest it is mainly the inexperienced exotic birds and urban dwellers that get caught. The native species in the real wild on off-shore islands where there are many 'bird-catcher trees' seem to know to avoid the trap.
This tree is almost extinct in the wild in the North Island, partly because the large leaves of P. brunoniana are eagerly eaten by browsing animals such as possums, goats and feral cattle. However the main threat to accessible populations is the cutting down of trees by people trying to prevent small songbirds from becoming trapped by the sticky seeds.
Pisonia brunoniana ‘Variegata’ is reasonably common in cultivation as a decorative tree in New Zealand.
Pisonia brunoniana original form
The sticky long seeds.