Vitex lucens (Puriri)
Species: V. lucens
Scientific name: Vitex lucens
Common name(s): Puriri, New Zealand mahogany, New Zealand teak , kauere.
Puriri is one of the few native trees with large colourful flowers. Many plants in New Zealand have white or green flowers. The tubular flowers of the puriri look rather like snapdragon flowers and can range from fluorescent pink to dark red, rose pink (most common) or sometimes even to a white flower with a yellow or pink blush. The bright colour, the tube shape, copious nectar production and the hairs at the base of the flower tube all point towards birds pollinating this flower (the hairs stop insects from stealing the nectar).
On the New Zealand mainland there is often plenty of nectar in the flowers because there aren't enough birds to eat all the nectar produced by the tree.
The flower produces a rugged ribbed 'stone' which has scales on 4 sides. When these fall these scales allow moisture to penetrate the wood. This in turn swells the 4 seeds and they can all germinate together pushing the scales aside to emerge as 4 separate individuals clinging to their woody capsule. Generally only one seed will eventually develop into a large tree.
Puriri was actively and selectively logged in the past to provided timber for a wide range of end uses. Only the best trees were felled, leaving the gnarled puriri often found on farm paddocks. This has given the impression that puriri is incapable of growing straight, but early reports of puriri describe naturally clear boles of 4.5 to 9 m and there are still a few trees like that left.
Traditional uses by the Maori.
An infusion of the leaves from this noble tree contains a powerful germicide. The leaves were boiled It was valued for bathing sprains and backache. The infusion aided ulcers &sore throats. The bark was a source of dye.
Puriri Tree at Lat 39 3' 33.44'S Long 174 5' 38.994'E Datum WGS 84 on the Te Henui Walkway, New Plymouth
A fallen berry
Leaves of the Puriri
Underside od a Puriri leaf
Trunk of a Vitex lucens
This a small tree is growing on waste land next to a motorway. The seed must have been excreted here by a bird. Fruit-eating birds play an important ecological role in dispersing seeds of podocarp and broadleaf trees and shrubs here in New Zealand. Their job is essential in sustaining healthy forests, and regenerating new forest. The Kereru (New Zealand pigeon) Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae play a key role, consuming fruit and excreting the seeds of at least 70 plant species, including 16 large native trees. The Tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) is the second most important seed disperser of native plants and trees. There 7 introduced bird species that also eat small quantities of fruit.
An old puriri moth (Aenetus virescens) burrow in a puriri tree trunk..The trunk below has lost its bark, revealing a pepperpot of burrow entrances and feeding scar.
Damage done by the bugs of puriri moths on a piece of puriri timber.
The distinctive shape of the burrow.