Taraire is a dioecious smaller evergreen than its cousin, the Tawa. This upright forest specimen tree grows steadily to 6m within ten years to a maximum of 20m. As a shade-tolerant tree, when it grows in the forest it tends to be under the canopy and carries a sparse crown of horizontal branches which stand upright in the upper reaches. But when it grows out in the sun-fed open, Taraire crowns are broad, bushy and crowded.
The foliage is made up of large, robust, glossy leaves which when young are coated on the underside with a red-brown down. Leaves are slow to rot on the ground and build-up on the forest floor in layers. This effectively smothers other potential seedlings thereby leaving wide, easily navigated pathways.
As the new season’s growth appears from October to December, so too do loose clusters of inconspicuous green flowers on inflorescences up to 10cm long. The fruit sets and is ripe by February drawing kereru to an important food source. They love the 4cm long deep purple ovoid fruit with its bright green flesh reminiscent of the avocado. These iconic native birds are big enough to swallow the large single stone contained in the drupe and are its main source of seed dispersal.
Beilschmiedia tarairi is endemic and the dominant hardwood species in coastal and lowland forests in Northland. It’s found from East Cape to the Far North with greatest concentration between Kaipara and the Bay of Islands. Because it is shade-tolerant it frequently forms the understorey of kauri forests where it favours the most optimum sites and best soils. Where Taraire grows, above average moist and fertile soils are always indicated. Taraire prefers damp, free-draining soils and will not tolerate dry ridge positions or poorly drained ground. It is frost tender when young and prefers loosely sheltered sites.
This very attractive tree is ideal for parks, in groves, and well-suited to sheltered farms.