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From a distance you may need to squint a bit initially to see two of New Zealand’s most peculiar and closely related dioecious trees, Horoeka Ferox (Pseudopanax ferox) and Horoeka (Pseudopanax crassifolius). The difference between the lengthy juvenile stage and the mature adult forms of these extraordinary trees is so intense that early botanists classified them as separate species. Take a break, have a squint, and admire a marvel.

Ferox grows as a single leader specimen steadily to three metres within ten years, to a maximum 8m. P.ferox leaves are 30-45 cm long, lanceolate, and in the juvenile, point sharply down from the bole. They are dark-green to blackish, coriaceous, rigid, and have much more sharply-toothed margins than their brother, P.crassifolius. Leaves are well-spaced on a slender trunk for 20-30 years until Ferox changes to its adult form of a pompom-shaped crown with leaves much reduced in size, at the top of a slender bare trunk.

Horoeka grows in a similar fashion to the less common Ferox except that its juvenile leaves are less fiercely serrated, and are longer (up to a metre though more usually 30-50cm). As the trunk develops only the upper reaches tend to have leaves. Horoeka juvenile stage is 10-15 years, and then it assumes the same pompom shape foliage as Ferox but grows to a higher maximum of 15m.

Both forms flower green-yellow at maturity from March to May in large compound umbels at branch ends. Pollinated by insects, the flowers develop in P.crassifolius into 5mm round, black fruit which ripens in November and December and is a good food source for birds. P.ferox has larger fruit up to 9mm. 

Both species are extraordinarily hardy and do well in arid coastal environments, although Ferox is considered hardier than his brother. Both endure drought and moderate frost. Both are found throughout the country but in sparse populations.

Pseudopanax ferox and P.crassifolius make striking additions in large plantings and their slender trunks and slow growth are particularly suitable in smaller gardens.  They thrive in full sun on well-drained soil but are inclined to root-rot in consistently wet soils.

Pseudopanax Ferox

          
 $110 each        $650 each

Pseudopanax Crassifolius

          
 $110 each        $650 each

Pseudopanax belongs to the Araliaceae family which includes ivy and ginseng. Pseudopanax means, false cure, while ferox is the Latin term for fierce. Crassifolius comes from the Latin, crassus, meaning thick, and folius, meaning leafed.

  • Thomas Kirk published The Forest Flora of New Zealand in 1889. In it he pointed out that the mid-rib of a Pseudopnanax leaf was so stout, that early pioneers used them as boot laces and to repair saddlery 
  • Early Maori chewed the bark of Pseudopanax after bouts of diarrhoea to calm their stomachs
  • Horoeka leaves were pulverised by South Island Maori to access long threads from which they could make rock painting paint-brushes
  • Maori also used juvenile Pseudopanax trees for spears to hunt kereru
  • The fruit of both species attract tui, kereru, and whiteheads in droves to partake of a welcome food source 
  • Horoeka was used to construct piling for the first jetty at Port Chalmers and lasted for thirty years without attracting teredo
  • P.crassifolius  was occasionally used for props and sleepers, mostly in Otago, but other timbers proved superior
  • P.ferox reputedly has a strong disagreeable odour when newly felled
  • P.ferox is naturally sparsely distributed, and its scarcity is contributed to in the wild by browsing deer, goats, and possums
  • P.ferox may hybridise with P.lessonii according to reports across several northern populations
  • Propagation is simple from fresh seed
  • Seeds generally germinate after six weeks of stratification 
  • Hardwood cuttings taken in autumn also usually strike well
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* All prices are exclusive of GST

102 Omaha Flats Road, Matakana
don@takana.co.nz

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