February in the hills with Chris Horne & Michele Dickson
Olearia solandri, takupurenga, tree daisy
Origin of the botanical name
Olearia comes from the name of a German botanist, Johann Gottfried Ölschläger (1635-1711). His surname, latinised to Olearius, means “oil presser”; solandri comes from Daniel Carl Solander (1733-1788), a pupil of Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist on Captain Cook’s first voyage. Takupurenga is a member of the world’s and Aotearoa’s largest plant family, the daisy family, called the Asteraceae or Compositae .
Distribution and habitat
Coastal tree daisy is endemic to New Zealand. It occurs on Te Ika a Māui/North Island from Te Paki southwards and on Te Waipounamu/South Island to southern Marlborough and western Nelson. Look for it near the coast in swampy or rocky sites near estuaries and on hill-sides up to about 500 m above sea level.
Coastal tree daisy is a shrub, or in sheltered sites, a small tree up to 4 m tall. In the latter case its trunk may be 20-30 cm diameter, with the bark hanging off in strips. It has rather stiff, spreading, square cross-section, sticky branchlets clad in yellowish hairs / tomentum. The leaves on young plants are up to 15 mm long and on adult plants 5-10 mm long on stalks / petioles about 1 mm long. The leaves grow in opposite pairs or clusters. They are slightly leathery, hairless on top and covered with yellowish hairs underneath. Their edges curl downwards.
Takupurenga flowers from February to May and sets seed from April to June. Female and male flower parts appear on the same composite flower. The leaves and flowers smell strongly of vanilla – savour the perfume! Appearing at the centre of clusters of leaves, the white composite flowers comprise many tiny disc florets in the middle, surrounded by ray florets, a typical feature of the daisy family. The white of the flowers and their perfume attract pollinating insects. Each fruit, 1-1.5 mm long, contains one seed, covered with hairs which facilitate its distribution by the wind.
We have been unable to find any references to uses for coastal tree daisy, except its value as foreground for photography. If you hear of another use, please tell us.
Where can you find coastal tree daisy?
Look for it in the Stable Gully native forest area in Wellington Botanic Garden, along Te Ara Piko / Pāuatahanui Inlet, on the banks of Waikanae Estuary and below about 500 m elevation in the Tararua, Remutaka and Aorangi ranges.
¹ The Te Reo Māori name for the plant, takupurenga, appeared in Native Plant Walk Notes prepared in February 2007 for use in Karori Sanctuary.