& Pseudopanax ferox
(previously known by a variety of names, and even as separate species for juvenile and adult. Generally previously recognised in the Aralia or Panax genera.)
Lancewood / Horoeka
Lancewood has 2 distinct stages – juvenile and adult. Juvenile trees are branchless with a single trunk and long, hanging leaves. Adult trees branch from 2-3m high, and have shorter and wider leaves. This adaption assisted in avoiding grazing of the leaves by moa.
Māori used trunks of young trees for making bird spears, as lancewood has one of the toughest of native timbers.
Young trees have a single trunk with long, stiff leaves pointing downward. Mature trees have a fluted, twisted trunk, branching above 2-3m to form a rounded canopy.
1. Pseudopanax crassifolius Lancewood. Up to 15m high in good conditions. Young leaves are 30cm-1m long, dark green through almost black, down-pointing, narrow-linear with notched teeth on the edges. The mid-vein is often red or yellow. Adult leaves to 20cm and dark green, and fruit 4-5mm across.
_____common across New Zealand.
2. Pseudopanax ferox Fierce Lancewood. Up to 6m high. Leaves to 50cm long, more brown than green, with deeply-lobed and hooked teeth. Adult leaves to 15cm and brown, and fruit 8-9mm across.
_____across New Zealand, but preferring drier habitats than Pseudopanax crassifolius.
The strong vertical element and eccentric harsh beauty makes Lancewood a great contrast to lower, softer textures. Forms an intermediary element between plants and architectural elements such as concrete and Corten steel. Best grown with lighter colours. Even a bizarre formal can be achieved with symmetry and sequence. Not a specimen tree – looking best planted in groups. Plantings can be either removed when the juvenile form is past after 10-20 years, or planted with foresight to embrace the canopy of the adult form.
Tolerates winds and hard frosts, but requires soil that drains well. Fine with sun or semi-shade.
Coastal Five-Finger (Pseudopanax lessonii) – this one is similar only in adult form, though leaves are borne in threes like clover, and branching is not restricted to the tree’s canopy.
January to April flowering is popular with bees, and fruiting across the same period supports a variety of native birds.