Pittosporum cornifolium (Tawhirikaro)
Species: P. cornifolium
Scientific Name: Pittosporum cornifolium
Common names: Tawhirikaro, perching Kohuhu.
Pittosporum cornifolium is a rare and threatened member of the New Zealand Pittosporum species. It is an epiphytic species (that is, a species that doesn't grow on the ground; usually on tree branches or rocks) that (despite its usual home) will thrive in a well-drained soil. It often grows on puriri (Vitex lucens) or rata (Metrosideros robusta) trees, amongst entire communities of epiphytes.
It’s a small shrub with an open habit that grows to 2m in height with a width of 1m.
A fellow tree-dweller (epiphytic species) of Pittosporum cornifolium is Pittosporum kirkii.
The dark green shiny leaves are in clusters of three or five and radiate from a node. This cyclical arrangement around an axis is called a verticil.
It has red flower buds which open to yellow flowers which are sweetly scented.
Its open fruit capsules are orange in colour with black seeds. The orange colour isn't a fleshy aril, but simply the inside of the capsule and it serves to highlight the sticky black seeds to birds.
P. cornifolium ranges from the Poor Knights Islands, Great Barrier Island and North Cape to the Marlborough Sounds.
It is growning at the Rotokare Scenic Reserve. There are currently two forms in cultivation and sold by nurseries. One form has small, bright, light-green leaves and the more fragrant flowers forms a compact, tidy shrub up to 2.5 m high. One of the most outstanding features of the plant is the scent, which is powerful at close range, and smells like a combination of caramel and chocolate. This type form bears small, dusky red flowers during late winter and spring, whilst the northern form (described above) bears yellow flowers slightly later in the year.
Photographed at Te Kainga Marire Native Garden, New Plymouth mid September.
Photographed at Otari Native Botanic Garden and Wilton's Bush Reserve. Wellington.