April in the hills with Michele Dickson and Chris Horne
Leucopogon fasciculatus, mingimingi, soft or tall mingimingi
Soft mingimingi belongs to the southern heath family, Ericaceae. The name mingimingi is also used for a few other native plants: e.g., Cyathodes juniperina and Coprosma propinqua.
Origin of the botanical name
Leucopogon refers to the white beard of the hairy flower petals; fasciculatus means ‘little bundles bearer’, referring to the flower spikes and clusters of flowers. Mingimingi in Te Reo means “twisted” or similar.
Mingimingi is endemic to Aotearoa/NZ. It grows on Manawatāwhi/Three Kings, Te Ika a Māui/North Island and Te Waipounamu/South Island as far south as Canterbury.
Look for it in dry shrub-land or light forest from sea-level to 1500 m.
Mingimingi is a spreading bushy shrub or small tree up to 5 m high. The bark is fissured, darkbrown to black, and may peel off in strips. The leaves are bright pale-green, paler on the underside, flat, linear-lanceolate, 12-25 mm long x 2-4 mm wide, rather clustered at the ends of stems in a whorled fashion, flaring out from the stem. They are pointed but not sharp to touch, obscurely veined, with 3-7 veins parallel to the margins, more prominent on the underside.
The sweet-scented, white or greenish flowers are bi-sexual, flowering from late winter to early summer. Flowers are small, bell-shaped on hanging spikes, 1-3 cm long. There are 6 to 12 flowers in each spike. The fruit, produced from spring to early autumn, are round berries, 2-4 mm in diameter, mostly red but can be white or pink. Each berry has one seed.
Infusions of leaves have been used for headache, influenza, asthma, bronchitis and alimentary disorders. One report mentions a poultice of boiled leaves can be used for baldness. The berries are sometimes eaten.
Where to find Leucopogon fasciculatus?
You can see soft mingimingi on many dryer hillsides and in bush around Wellington, e.g., Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush and Makarā Peak, and in beech forest in East Harbour and Kaitoke regional parks. It is plentiful in the Tararua, Remutaka and Aorangi ranges.