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The all-important break to reset your mind and move back into the day with a refreshed focus is aided admirably by allowing your eyes to engage with a plant, and this is now scientifically proven. Let’s get your mind away from the science, and your eye on to a little known native tree, Toro (Myrsine salicina). Apparently early Maori around Rotorua found the branches well suited to bag net handles because the tough resilient fresh wood bent, but wouldn’t break.

Toro is a slender upright tree with steady growth to four metres at ten years to a maximum of eight metres. It has long narrow coriaceous leaves with a yellow-brown upper surface and a paler underside on which there are quite obvious tiny rectangular glands. In spring the underside of new leaves are reddish-brown and in autumn they turn amber. They have smooth margins when mature but seedling leaves are usually toothed.

Toro flower buds are brown and they grow in profuse clusters with up to 15 individual flowers in each cluster on the bare branchlets below leaves. Toro is generally dioecious but not uncommonly, gynodioecious (flowers may be male, female or hermaphroditic all on the same tree). The buds blossom from August to January into coral-coloured flowers with curved petals.

In the year following flowering, the fruit ripens into soft-fleshed red or orange drupes from September to February, usually carrying one, but occasionally two seeds. Birds waste no time getting at them

Toro prefers good, well-drained soils and does noticeably better on them but will tolerate poor soils and dry conditions.

The hardy Myrsine salicina is endemic throughout the North Island and upper South Island from North Cape to Greymouth, particularly on the lowlands and up to approximately 850 metres. It is completely absent on the Eastern side of the South Island. It is often found in the company of hardwoods in kauri/podocarp forest understoreys.

This smallish open-branched tree makes a graceful specimen in a garden where its height, under cultivation, rarely reaches beyond six metres. Its trunk is protected by thick, dark red to almost black corrugated bark, and its attractive form and lovely colouring through the seasons along with its relative scarcity and willingness to thrive in most conditions make it a pleasing addition.

$90 each

Toro wood is straight grained, rich red, and has lovely markings. It’s also quite strong but it can become frangible over time and contact with the ground brings on fairly quick rot. Nevertheless, the cabinetmakers of yesteryear couldn’t resist its beauty and they used it both as solid timber and veneers for cabinet-making, as well as for inlays and decorative work. Today it is barely used since its comparative scarcity has made it unavailable through commercial outlets.

  • Ideal garden specimen – may benefit from canny pruning to maximise its natural form 
  • Make attractive potted patio plants
  • Easy to establish
  • Will grow in open situations on relatively poor soils but does best in partial shade in deep, fecund, soil with good water supply
  • Surprisingly shade and cold tolerant
  • May be grown from semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings though these can be slow to strike 
  • Easily grown from fresh seed 
  • Collect seed in March and April and stratify for a minimum six weeks
  • Toro (Myrsine salicina) can be the target of possums in areas of high density of the pest since they are rather partial to it
* All prices are exclusive of GST

102 Omaha Flats Road, Matakana

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Takana Native Tree Nursery
51 Sylvan Avenue
Auckland, Auckland -
New Zealand

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