April in the hills with Michele Dickson, Chris Horne
Coprosma grandifolia, Kanono, manono, raurekau, large-leaved coprosma
Origin of the botanical names
‘Coprosma’ is derived from the Greek words ‘kopros’ meaning ‘dung’ and ‘osme’ meaning ‘smell’, as one Coprosma species in particular has an unpleasant smell; ‘grandifolia’ comes from the Latin ‘grandis’ meaning ‘large-leaved’. In some texts published about 30-60 years ago, you will find the name ‘australis’. This name was deemed to be taxonomically incorrect under botanical naming rules and the earlier name was retained. More recently, some taxonomists have considered this name to be incorrectly published and that this species should be renamed ‘autumnalis’ in line with the earliest description. But it is more likely ‘grandifolia’ will be conserved under a formal case to have it retained. You can see how confusing naming can become! C. grandifolia is in the same genus as the four species described in the last four issues of The Tramper. It is the largest-leaved Coprosma in New Zealand. The Coprosma genus is a member of the coffee family, the Rubiaceae.
Distribution and habitat
Kanono is endemic to Aotearoa. It grows on Te Ika a Māui / North Island and on Te Waipounamu / South Island as far as Lake Ianthe in the west and Marlborough Sounds in the east. Look for it in the forest understorey and in sheltered shady sites from the coast to montane and cloud forest. In areas of high rainfall can be a major component of shrublands, and within regenerating forest. It is often common along the margins of logging tracks and roads.
Kanono is a shrub or small tree to 7 m tall. The trunk is single or branched from the base. The branches and branchlets are smooth and stout, the branchlets often mottled and sometimes flattened between the leaves. The oval leaves are membranous to sub-coriaceous / leathery, dull glossy green or green mottled with maroon or purple above, paler beneath,10–30 cm x 5-10 cm, opposite, on smooth petioles / stalks 2-3 cm long. Leaf margins are sometimes slightly waved. Leaf veins / reticulations are conspicuous on both surfaces. The interpetiolar stipules are large, black and rather triangular.
Unlike the other large-leaved Coprosma species, flowering of kanono is from March to June and fruiting October to January. The pale green flowers develop in clusters on three-forked flower stalks. The fruit, on the female form of the plant, is reddish orange, oblong, 7-9 mm long. Birds eat the fruit and disperse the seeds.
The berries can be eaten. As a medicinal plant, uses include: bruising or crushing the bark to apply to wounds; boiling the bark for an infusion for aches, pains and broken limbs; boiling leaves and cut twigs for an infusion for cuts, sores, bruises and boils. The pulverised bark has been used for dying - a mordant is not needed. As a domestic plant, the leaves have been used for sitting and sleeping places. As an aid for fishing and hunting, leaves have been used as a pepe or call-leaf to attract birds. Like other Coprosma species with big leaves, kanono is browsed by deer and goats.
Where can you find Coprosma grandifolia?
Look for kanono in reserves in Wellington city, East Harbour Regional Park, Akatarawa Forest and in the Tararua, Remutaka and Aorangi ranges.