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Suffer no scurvy, ye who drink from the mighty Rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum). Captain Cook no doubt enjoyed a brew now and then, but in 1773 on his second voyage to New Zealand, he used young shoots from our native Rimu to ferment with sugar and produce spruce beer as a tonic against scurvy. Spruce shoots have high Vitamin C content and beer was made of them in the UK and around the New World. Likely the brew had a healthy effect on consumers’ morale as well.

D.cupressinum is a tall dioecious forest conifer which grows steadily to three metres within ten years, and up to 40m. This very attractive ancient species (fossilised pollen has been traced back 70 million years) loves life and there are records of Rimu reaching a thousand years.

Young trees display an upright pyramidal shape with yellow to light-green foliage on their swooping branches. Khaki-coloured adult foliage is scale-like, barely recognisable as leaves. Lower branches drop off as the tree gets older and the crown rounds out substantially. In high rainfall hill country where trees are more sparse, crowns become enormous and the trunks develop fluting towards the ground. Such trees frequently harbour botanical communities in the large lateral branches of their crowns including epiphytes, broadleaf, orchids, and kamahi. In the North Island Rata often entwines itself around Rimu, extending its root system to eventually encompass the entire trunk. 

The bark of large Rimu breaks up and drops off in sizeable frangible chunks leaving characteristic patterns on the trunk. 

Flowers develop at the tips of branchlets, and in female trees these branch tips turn up, creating a feathery aspect. The male tree usually exhibits the drooping form associated with young Rimu. Male catkins are upright, green and inconspicuous. Female flowers are wind-pollinated from October to January. 

The small oval dark brown nut-fruits ripen from March to May the following year and are mounted on bright juicy red cushions which kereru, bellbirds and tui adore as an autumnal feast. Birds are the main method of seed-dispersal. Good seed years are often 2-3 years apart but in a mast year a large Rimu can produce as many as 200,000 seeds.

Rimu are found all over the country in lowland to montane forest, and while they thrive on rich, moist soils with shelter and shade, they also tolerate infertile poorly drained soils. D.cupressinum is a regal specimen tree well suited to parks, large open gardens, and also in native regeneration plantings in sheltered gullies.

$130 each         POA each

Banks and Solander, botanists on Captain Cook’s first voyage to New Zealand in 1770, collected the first samples of D.cupressinum. It has since been discovered that Rimu cones contain rich resources of bio-available calcium and Vitamin C. In mast years of cone production, successful breeding years of Kakapo, our endangered parrot (and the heaviest in the world) are coincidental. Apparently the unripe fruit stimulates the birds to mate, and later, the ripe fruit provides all the nutritional energy required to sustain healthy growth in kakapo chicks.

  • The Rimu Latin name translates to Cypress Tear drop
  • Maori enjoyed the ripe red fruit, although too much of it can cause constipation
  • Getting to the ends of the branches where the fruit is borne was tricky in tall trees and accidents certainly occurred
  • Rimu bleeds edible resin, particularly from young branches though it tastes bitter
  • D.cupressinum resin also stops blood loss when applied to wounds
  • Bark as a decoction was used to treat wounds, and also pulped to treat cuts, ulcers and burns
  • The large bark flakes shed from Rimu trunks were used by Maori and bushmen as combustible hot fuel for fires, including in the wet
  • Rimu bark has high tannin content and was used to dye leather
  • The heartwood is beautifully figured with red tones and easily worked, taking on a lovely lustre when oiled
  • Some of the best remaining Rimu stands exist in Pureora, and Whirinaki Forest Parks
  • Almost 200,000 cubic metres of Rimu were cut annually during the 1880s and in 1886 Kirk recorded, “at that time no other tree species afforded employment to such a large number of men”. Large scale reductions over the years reduced harvesting until 1993 when the Forest Amendment Bill was passed. By 2005 the harvest was reduced to 5,000 cubic metres
  • Grows easily from fresh seed
  • Hardwood cuttings are slow to strike
  • Collect seed from April to June
  • Stratify for six weeks – freezing seed or exposure to frost improves germination
  • Sow into trays and set in a shady position
  • Seedlings can be collected from the forest floor – take care with the tap root
For price and availability list
* All prices are exclusive of GST

102 Omaha Flats Road, Matakana

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