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Enjoy a change of focus with us and have a squiz at the very handsome Titoki (Alectryon excelsus). Titoki, with its glossy leaves and spectacular bright red fruit is a fine attractant for native birds including Tui and Kereru. The fruit cradles a shiny black round seed which Maori crushed for its superior oil. They mixed ochre with it and applied it to carved work, and it was a valued medicine. They also scented it with crushed Manuka or other leaves and used it to slick their hair and oil their bodies. Europeans thought it was excellent oil too and it was used by watchmakers and armourers.

Titoki is a medium-size tree which grows quickly to five metres within ten years and up to 12m. Its attractive form is supported by an erect clean trunk from which sturdy upright branches spread multiple dark green canopies in very mature trees. Juvenile trees have glossy leaves which become matt as they mature. New growth is initially pinkish adding to the attractiveness.

A.excelsus is generally dioecious and produces tiny pinkish-purple petal-less blooms on sparse panicles from October to December. The tough round finely-haired woody fruit pods take a year to mature and are often found on the tree with new flowers. The pod splits when mature to expose the bright fleshy fruit and the birds arrive to make merry with the bounty. 

Titoki favours fertile well-drained alluvial soils but doesn’t do well in watery or arid ground. In the wild it can be found in coastal and lowland forests as part of the understorey on lower hills and river flats slightly further inland behind more salt-tolerant species. It is common across much of the country from Te Paki to midway down the South Island as far as Banks Peninsula up to a height of 600 metres.

Titoki has become over the past 25 years perhaps the most popular residential property native tree in the north island, despite not being dominant in many bush areas. An example of the discovery of the benefits of lesser known natives for ornamental and amenity uses.

Long lived Titoki is an ideal specimen or street tree, and works well in gardens, enjoying a good prune, or in parks. Young trees need frost protection, and all prefer somewhat wind-sheltered positions. 

$120 each    $275 each     $450 each         POA    

Titoki is from the Sapindaceae (soap berry) family which also includes the southern Chinese Lychee tree (Litchi chinensis). Its Greek name, Alectryon meaning Cockscomb, is a reference to the bright red fruit. Excelsus is Latin for tall. Maori knew the tree well, and children ate the fruit which is reputed to be sweet, but also rather astringent and not especially palatable. The date-like kernel of the seed was dried and stored over long periods and boiled or steamed when food was in short supply. 

  • A. excelsus’ straight-grained  timber is strong and flexible and was prized as a quality hardwood with characteristics reminiscent of oak
  • The timber didn’t fare well in contact with the ground but was well-used by wheelwrights, for building coaches, tool handles, and yokes for bullock wagons and horse-drawn drays
  • It can be relatively easily worked; heartwood is a handsome red which deepens with the age of the tree, while sapwood is pale
  • Boiled leaves and the boiling liquor were a successful sandfly and mosquito repellent which was rubbed into the skin and onto clothes
  • A. excelsus had a variety of medicinal uses including treating wounds painful joints, chafed baby skin, and to calm earache
  • A ‘uniquely New Zealand’ liqueur is made from Titoki and has found markets in Australia, Japan, and Fiji
  • Seed dispersal is by birds, but plants also readily grow from seed beneath their parent
  • Propagation is easy from fresh seed
  • Seed can be stored but only for three or four months before degrading
  • Sow in early summer
  • Site out of severe wind which can shred leaf
  • Thrives in full sun or partial shade
  • Seedlings are frost sensitive
For price and availability list
* All prices are exclusive of GST

102 Omaha Flats Road, Matakana

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