May in the hills with Chris Horne
Melicytus ramiflorus, Māhoe, Whiteywood
Melicytus ramiflorus, māhoe, whiteywood, a member of the violet family, is endemic to New Zealand. Because it is not highly palatable to possums, it has become a common indigenous tree species in forests in the Wellington region.
Mature trees can reach 10 m, or more, with several trunks over 40 cm in diameter. You may have noticed that they often have many slender, upright branches, called epicormic shoots, near the base of their pale trunks. In Spring, māhoe’s young, light-green leaves highlight its presence in gullies, but on sites exposed to gales, its twigs are often bare of leaves. Look on the forest floor for decaying māhoe leaves which produce delicate skele- tons showing their network of veins.
Māhoe is dioecious, with male trees producing male flow- ers, and female trees producing female flowers. Both sexes flower from November to March. Female māhoe produce violet to dark-blue fruit from November to April, in dense clusters along the branches.
Māori made fire by rubbing the soft, dry wood of dead māhoe with a pointed, hard stick of dry kaikōmako.