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Here’s your chance; two minutes of open-eye instead of shut-eye – guaranteed to be just as refreshing, especially with a fragrant Kawaka centre-front. Libocedrus plumosa is a species of Cypress from the Cupressaceae family and both its foliage and timber are aromatic – Librocedrus translating as Frankincense Cedar. The genus Libocedrus refers to cypresses which resemble cedars. Plumosa translates as feathery, referring to the lovely flattened foliage which gives mature trees a ‘feathery’ look. Kawaka is an at-risk native tree by virtue of its sparse occurrence.

Libocedrus plumosa is a tall dioecious evergreen conifer which grows to three meters within 10 years and up 20m. It grows into a pyramidal form, though as it reaches maturity the crown may round and spread somewhat. Foliage is a rich mid-green with flat scale-like leaves forming planar sprays in tiers which produce the ‘feathery’ look. The greyish trunk is straight tapering evenly as it grows, and characteristically shedding long strips of bark.

Kawaka doesn’t flower, producing woody cones instead at branchlet tips from July to September. Female cones are 1.5cm long and mature by the following June. They carry two, although sometimes four, winged seeds which are released when the cone matures, and are dispersed by wind.

Kawaka is endemic and restricted from Te Paki in the Far North to approximately Gisborne and Taranaki, but then reappears, again quite restricted in the northwest of the South Island around Golden Bay. It copes well with poor, infertile soils and in the wild is generally found on lowland or lower hills below 700m. Often found on ridges and spurs and near slips, Kawaka will colonise rich fertile soils in the open but needs good moisture, cool roots and prefers some shade to flourish. 

It is hardy, will tolerate drought, and is surprisingly frost resistant. L.plumosa is not well-known today but its beautiful foliage makes it an ideal specimen tree for garden or park and also makes an attractive fragrant hedge

                        
 $65 each         $130 each         $580 each            POA     

Kawaka timber is a deep, rich red and was much sought after in earlier years, particularly for cabinet-making. The resultant milling decreased the natural plenitude of Kawaka, which is anyway relatively scarce, to the point where it is almost unknown today. The dense straight-grained wood works easily and is so attractive in combination with its strength and durability that many uses were found for it, including furniture,  house  shingles, palings, battens, fence posts and construction generally. One report claims it is still in use as fencing material in the central North Island.

  • Maori artefacts from this timber tend to be uncommon but Wallace in 1989 identified a fern-root beater, maul, and a teka made from it amongst several museum items he tested.
  • The timber was believed to be an insect deterrent
  • The attractive aromatic foliage is sometimes used in flower arrangements
  • Libocedrus plumosa is hardy and will grow in a variety of soil types
  • Best grown in the open since the crown of mature trees has a spreading tendency
  • Easily grown, and with care one or two year old naturally sprouted seedlings can be transplanted from beneath parent trees
  • Propagation from fresh seed is the most successful
  • Collect seed from March through April
  • Sow into trays and stand in shade house conditions
  • Stratifying seed for four weeks improves germination
  • Germination should happen within two weeks and seedlings grow fast
  • It is possible to propagate from semi-hardwood cuttings but rooting is extraordinarily slow
  • Prefers free-draining fecund soil
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* All prices are exclusive of GST

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don@takana.co.nz

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