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Shut-eye dulls your concentration but Open-eye with a tree sharpens your focus. Let your eye roll over this handsome but sorely undervalued native tree, Tanekaha (Phyllocladus trichomanoides). Maori named Tanekaha, Strong Man, owing to its high quality strong, ‘elastic’ timber. Known in English as Celery Pine because of its leather-like vaguely celery-shaped leaves, the olive-coloured leaves are actually imposters, being in fact flattened twigs known as phyllodes. These are integral to the photosynthesis process. True mature Tanekaha leaves appear as scales on and at the end of phylloclades.

This graceful medium height conical forest native grows steadily to four metres by ten years, and up to a maximum of 20 metres. Hardy, it tolerates most soils though prefers moist ground with good drainage and dappled shading. Tanekaha is endemic from Northland to Taranaki, but also thrives in isolated patches in Marlborough and Nelson regions, frequently growing in Kauri forests. Generally monoecious (male and female on the same tree), Tanekaha is often dioecious. 

Male flowers resemble tiny centimetre-long willow catkins in clusters at the outer limit of shoots, while female flowers also occur in clusters. Once fertilised, a seed forms within a white open case. Seed is released during autumn and early winter when it falls to the ground but can also be dispersed by birds.

Tanekaha’s erect pyramid form with its conical crown and slender spreading branches, lends itself beautifully as a specimen tree, but it is equally a superior plantation choice. The straight grey-green trunk of young trees are virtually lacking in taper although annular bands are often present. As the tree matures, the crown spreads and rounds out while the bark turns red-brown, thickens, and becomes rough, and in old trees, sometimes develops vertical cracks.

Dropping their lower branches as they attain height and leave straight clean trunks, Tanekaha have been sought out from earliest times by Maori and Europeans for their strong timber and tannin-rich bark.

The bark was prized by Maori for the red, and various brown dyes they could extract. In Germany in the late 1800s the bark was used for fashionable red and pink dyes, and soldier’s WWI uniforms got their khaki colour from Tanekaha bark dyes.

Tanekaha was also used extensively by Maori for a range of ailments from dysentery, to liver disorders, and is still in popular use by modern herbalists.


  $60 each         $130 each        $650 each        $1450 each

Tanekaha (Phyllocladus trichomanoides) is deserving of greater attention than that offered it by today’s herbalists and wood carvers and turners. A softwood, the strong, pliable timber has fine-grained cream-coloured sapwood and reddish heartwood and will stand in direct contact with the ground for up to 15 years. Woodturners love this timber which handles well and produces a smooth finish. It carves well too remaining stable even when green.

  • Maori used Tanekaha extensively. Their 7ft two-handed koikoi weapon was pointed at both ends and took advantage of the strong flexible timber. They used it also for building whare, waka, paddles, masts, weapons, bowls, fish hooks, and more, and the bark was used for dyes and a wide range of medicines.
  • Europeans in early years used Tanekaha for marine piling, mining pit props, sleepers, roofing timbers, and bridge decking. Tanekaha was also used for housing.

  • Maori medicinal uses included a liver tonic, the treatment of dysentery and vomiting, diarrhoea, as an astringent and a microbial agent, and early Europeans quickly followed them. They used it for the relief of chronic stomach illness, asthma, internal haemorrhage, to reduce glandular swelling, and for burns, boils and abscesses. Today herbalists use it to help fortify the immune system, revitalise the constitution, balance the hormonal system, relieve cirrhosis, hepatitis and fatty liver, as well as for the healing purposes it was traditionally used for. 

  • Tanekaha bark was used as a tanning agent

  • Admirable ornamental tree with beautiful form, attractive foliage, underutilised by landscapers

  • Excellent in plantation for wood production but usually overlooked by foresters

  • Collect seed from April – May

  • Seedlings prefer well-lit conditions or mild shade

  • Faster growth can be expected in ideal conditions: good soils, good water, and warm climate

  • Can be grown from hardwood cuttings but slow to take root - use bottom  heat.

For price and availability list

* All prices are exclusive of GST

102 Omaha Flats Road, Matakana

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