October in the hills with Michele Dickson, Chris Horne
Raukaua anomalus, whaupaku,
Origin of the botanical names
‘Raukaua’, the current preferred generic name is from ‘raukaua’, the Māori name for one of the species in this genus; ‘anomalus’ comes from the Greek word ‘anomalos’ meaning ‘irregular’ or ‘abnormal’ because it is so unlike its Pseudopanax relatives. This species has previously been described in the closely related genera Neopanax, Nothopanax, Panax and Pseudopanax, all members of the Araliaceae family, commonly called ‘araliads’ or ‘ivy family’, with members common in southeast Asia. In Aotearoa the family is represented by twenty-one native species.
Distribution and habitat
R. anomalus is endemic to Aotearoa. It grows on: Te Ika a Māui / North Island, except the Far North / Te Tai Tokerau; Te Waipounamu / South Island; and Rakiura / Stewart Island. Look for it in lowland to montane forest margins, scrub and shrubland from sea level to lower altitudes. It is often localised, not common, usually not found in large numbers.
R. anomalus is a bushy shrub up to 3 m tall with stout, grey, divaricating branches, more densely so when growing in the open. The branchlets have stiff black bristles. The leaves are alternate. Juvenile leaves differ from the adult, being 3-foliate with petioles / leaf stalks up to 2.5 cm. Adult leaves are single with short, petioles / leaf stalks up to 5 mm long. A few 3-foliate leaves may still be present on adult plants. The petioles / leaf stalks are winged / flattened with a joint between the petiole and blade. The leaf blade / lamina is bright green at first, becoming dark green, sub-coriaceous and more or less orbicular in shape. Some leaves show a faint suggestion of three lobes. The leaf edges have shallow marginal teeth, rounded, terminating in soft points. Leaf-blade veins are indistinct.
Clusters of a few tiny, greenish or fawn, bisexual flowers develop in the leaf axils. The fruit are fleshy, 4-5 mm wide, sideways compressed, green, ripening to either dark brown, blotched reddish-purple, or pale cream. The two persistent, recurved, female flower parts may be seen at the tip of the seeds. Flowering is from December to February, and fruiting from February to April. Birds eat the fruit and distribute the seeds.
We have not found any records of uses of Raukaua anomalus. Please tell us if you know of one.
Where can you find R. anomalus?
Look for this species in south and western Wellington coastal areas and adjacent hills, Skyline Walkway, Te Ahumairangi / Tinakori Hill, Huntleigh Park Reserve, Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush, Mangaroa Valley and the Akatarawa, Tararua and Remutaka ranges.