Karaka

Corynocarpus laevigatus

Karaka

ABOUT:
An evergreen shrub/tree grown for its glossy leaves and tropical appearance. It has a habit of appearing in headlines for the death of dogs through ingestion of the colourful berries.
Māori used the leaves (upper-side only) pressed against wounds to encourage healing. The fruit of the berries was eaten after much processing, and the kernel “…after it has been boiled and steeped in water for some days, is eaten, otherwise it produces madness, and relaxes the joints, so that they will bend the wrong way…“. Victims of karaka poisoning would be gagged, buried up to their neck for a time and force-fed water.

IDENTIFY: 
Grows to 8m high where exposed, and to 15m high in an open forest environment. Leaves are bright green, smooth and leathery. Flowers are not showy, but the large 4cm orange berries are eye-catching.

USE:
Used to tropical effect due to the glossy leaves, or as a street/specimen tree. Suitable for hedging/pleaching, or in screen planting. Karaka can even be used as a feature plant indoors in a well lit situation.

PLANT:
Tolerant of most windy sites and salt spray, but needs protection from all but the lightest of frostsNot fussy with soils as long as it doesn’t dry out when young.

SIMILAR TO:     
Broadleaf (Griselinia littoralis) – similar to the untrained eye, but Broadleaf leaves are not symmetrical, the leaf stems are generally yellowish, and the fruit are a dark purple.

ECOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE:     
Grows so easily that it has become a pest in some areas of NZ (and Hawaii). The fruit are popular with the kereru and tui, some of the few birds with a wide enough gape. Other birds such as hihi pick at the berry’s flesh.

MORE INFO:
Tiritiri Matangi: Karaka
Taranaki Educational Resource – Karaka
NZ Plant Conservation Network – Karaka
Landcare Research: Maori Plant Use – Karaka
Crowe, A. (1997). A field guide to native edible plants of New Zealand. Godwit Publishing Ltd, Auckland

 

 

 

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