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In The Hills In The Hills 2021-06

Coprosma areolata < Species index > Coprosma grandifolia

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This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper Volume 93, # 5, June 2021

June in the hills with Michele Dickson and Chris Horne

Coprosma foetidissima, Hūpiro, Hūpirau-ririki, naupiro, Stinkwood

stinkwood.jpg: 594x887, 122k (2021 May 30 13:17)
Coprosma foetidissima, Hūpiro, Hūpirau-ririki, naupiro, Stinkwood
Photo: Jeremy Rolfe

Origin of the botanical names

‘Coprosma’ is derived from the Greek words ‘kopros’ meaning ‘dung’ and ‘osme’ meaning ‘smell’, because this Coprosma species in particular has an unpleasant smell; ‘foetidissima’ comes from the Latin word for stinking. C. foetidissima is in the same genus as the species of Coprosma described in the last six issues of the Tramper. Some Te Reo Māori names are occasionally applied to various Coprosma species. The Coprosma genus is a member of the coffee family, the Rubiaceae.

Distribution and habitat

C. foetidissima is endemic to Aotearoa. It grows on Te Ika a Māui / North Island from Moehau southwards, on Te Waipounamu / South Island, on Rakiura / Stewart Island and the Auckland Islands. Look for it in coastal to subalpine forest, shrubland and occasionally grasslands.

Growth habit

Coprosma foetidissima is a slender, twiggy shrub or small tree up to 3 m tall, but can reach 6 m, with dark brown bark. The branches are rather brittle and open with smooth branchlets. The leaves are 30-50 x 14-20 mm and pale to medium green. They are membranous to almost leathery, of variable broadly ovate shape, tapering at both ends. The leaf tip may be blunt or sharp. The leaf base becomes a gradually narrowing winged stalk/petiole 8-15 mm long. This type of leaf base shape is referred to as being spathulate/spoon-shaped. When leaves are crushed or warmed up in summer, a strong, unpleasant sulphurous, rotten eggs or dung smell is unmistakable. This is a useful feature for identification. Reticulations of veins are faintly visible on the underside. The stipules between the leaves are truncate with a usually conspicuous long denticle in the middle and only minute teeth on the edges.


Female flowers and male flowers grow on separate plants. The pale green flowers are single, developing on the end of short branchlets. Flowering is from October to November and fruiting from March to July. The fruit is pale to full orange, 7-10 mm, oblong and tastes horrible. Birds eat the fruit and disperse the seeds.


As with some other Coprosma species, fast dyes have been obtained from the bark and berries.

Where can you find Coprosma foetidissima?

Look for this species in Otari Native Botanic Garden and Wilton’s Bush Reserve, in Akatarawa,Tararua, Remutaka and Aorangi ranges, particularly in sub-alpine bush.

Botany 2021

In The Hills 2021-05 < Index chronological > In The Hills 2021-07

Page last modified on 2022 Dec 03 13:00

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