May in the hills with Chris Horne and Michele Dickson
Leptecophylla juniperina subsp. juniperina, mingimingi, prickly mingimingi
Prickly mingimingi is a member of the southern heath family, Ericaceae. It was previously known as Cyathodes juniperina.
Origin of the botanical name
Leptecophylla means ‘fine pointed leaf’; juniperina means ‘like juniper, a conifer’. Mingimingi in Te Reo means ‘curly’ or ‘twisted’. ‘Prickly’ distinguishes it from mingimingi described in the April Tramper.
Prickly mingimingi is endemic to Aotearoa/NZ. It grows on Te Ika a Maui/North Island, Te Waipounamu/ South Island and Rakiura/Stewart Island. Look for it in dry lowland to montane forest and shrubland up to 1000 m elevation.
Prickly mingimingi is an erect or spreading shrub up to 5 m tall, with black bark. The sharp-tipped, leathery leaves are 6-15 mm long x 0.5-1 mm wide, brown green above and pale on the underside. They have down-curved edges and usually grow in tufts. Look on the underside of the leaves to see the prominent parallel veins.
The greenish white flowers, 3-4 mm long and attached singly, appear from August to December. The fruit appear from October to March. They are berries, 4-7 mm in diameter, varying from white to pink to red to crimson to dark purple. Each berry has one seed.
Māori made infusions of the leaves to treat asthma, kidney disorders, rheumatism and infected wounds. Early settlers made survey pegs from the durable wood. In spring, the tiny flowers produce nectar from which bees produce a mild-flavoured amber honey. The sweet berries are sometimes eaten, but are often rather dry.
Where to find prickly mingimingi?
You can see prickly mingimingi on drier hillsides in the southern North Island, e.g., in Taita Scientific Reserve, Hayward Scenic Reserve, and in beech forest in East Harbour and Kaitoke regional parks. Look for it in the Tararua, Remutaka and Aorangi ranges.