Kahikatea

Dacrycarpus dacrydioides

(previously known as Podocarpus dacrydioides)

Kahikatea / White Pine

ABOUT:
Kahikatea typically grow in groups, their roots intertwining and supporting each other. Forests of Kahikatea have been heavily cleared to provide fertile land for farming, as well as being milled for the manufacture of butter boxes when refrigerated shipping developed.
The autumn fruit were used by early Māori as a food source, collected in baskets made of harakeke. Kahikatea heartwood was favoured for the fashioning of bird spears.

IDENTIFY:     
20m high x 10m wide. Young trees have needle-like bronze leaves, and are columnar/pyramidal in shape. Older plants have twigs of overlapping green scales, and begin to branch, growing to 30m+ over many years.

USE:
Great as pillars through which views are framed, especially in lowland wetter sites. Ecologically important in creating vegetation islands when planted in groups, particularly where the fruit is popular with many native birds. Also good for filtering water in low-lying areas.

PLANT:
Prefers moist ground, and tolerates very wet conditions extending to seasonal flooding. Provide shelter when young, but frost and wind hardy when established. Grows fastest when sheltered at the sides by vegetation.

SIMILAR TO:     
Rimu (Dacrydium cuppresinum) – seed is glossy rather than coated in a white blush; fruit has stubby “spikes”; leafy scales are held outward and harder to the touch. Branches often have a weeping appearance, especially when young.

ECOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE:     
The female Kahikatea will only set fruit when close to male trees. The fruit are relished by an array of native birds, including tui, kereru, kakapo, kaka and bellbird.
The Brown Mudfish favours wetland stands of Kahikatea, where the shallow waters or mud are shaded and competition from other fish species is minimal.
The rare and flightless Kakapo has been known to climb the branchless trunk of Kahikatea when in fruit, coinciding their breeding with mast fruiting (heavy fruiting years, occurring roughly every 2 or 3 years).

MORE INFO:
Department of Conservation – Podocarp-Hardwood Forests
Landcare Research: Māori Plant Use – Dacrycarpus dacrydioides
Project Kahikatea – The Slewing of our Kahikatea Forests
The Gymnosperm Database – Dacrycarpus dacrydioides

 

 

 

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