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Tree time! Pinch a couple of moments to give your brain a rest and reset your focus on one of New Zealand’s native species, Turepo (Streblus heterophyllus). Some might be tempted to suggest Turepo has more handsome companions in the native tree-scape, but few trees are as hardy, or make such interesting statement or street trees. Turepo, the milk tree, belongs to the Mulberry family, genus Moraceae.

S. heterophyllus is a sturdy upright evergreen specimen tree which grows steadily to three metres within ten years and up to a maximum of 15m. It has a smaller leaf than its two New Zealand relatives, Ewekuri (S. banksii, and S. smithii). Turepo foliage is a darker green, ovate, with obvious veins on the underside, finely serrated at the edges, and slightly coriaceous. In juveniles, the leaves are shaped like violins. As they become older the leaves become oval but remain the same size. The Turepo spreading canopy splays from a stout divaricated trunk (25-60cm dia.) with upright main branches from which smaller branchlets spread (at takana most of ours are trimmed to single leader form). Adult Turepo possess roughish light-coloured bark with raised lenticels (breathing pores). If the tree is damaged it discharges significant amounts of thick, milky sap.

Turepo flowers from August to October once it has left the juvenile stage and carries 2-3mm male and female blooms on separate trees. The tiny cream-coloured flowers are arranged distichously (two vertical rows on opposite sides of the flower stalks), the males on longer stalks with more flowers, and the females with far fewer.

Bright red fruit ripens from November to March as plump single-seeded berries (drupes) approximately 5mm in diameter. Birds love them, and the tree also attracts bees and insects to the flowers.

Streblus heterophyllus is found all over wild New Zealand, though not necessarily en masse, and more particularly on the eastern side of the country. It favours warm conditions and fertile soils but is extraordinarily drought resistant and resilient on poor soils. It is often located on forest edges, and sometimes as an understorey component of tall coastal forest, but is most commonly found along the watery margins of creeks and rivers. Large specimens are frequently found on alluvial terraces.

S.heterophyllus thrives on most lowlands and is at its best in a sheltered spot with deep well-drained soils, but it will grow outside of its ideal environment, and in truly adverse conditions will become an attractive more stunted bush rather than a tree.

  $130 each         $580 each

Also in takana stock, brother to the Turepo –  Ewekuri

  $130 each         $580 each

When Turepo sustains damage including twig breakage, whether by chance or purpose, it bleeds a lot of milky juice which is thick, and sweet to taste. The early pioneers discovered that it made a passable substitute both for sugar and for milk when the cows weren’t around, and collected it for their cups of tea. Its colloquial name, Milk tree (or sometimes Cow Tree) came from this practice.

  • S.heterophyllus can hybridise with S.banksii and the two can be difficult to tell apart in some mainland populations. Turepo differs from S.banksii by its smaller leaves, and more divaricated form.
  • Turepo is a veritable pantry with humans enjoying its milk, goats and possums enjoying foliage and branchlets, bees and insects the flowers, and birds and occasional rodents, the fruit
  • Seed and young seedlings are vulnerable to rodents and in some areas gender balance in populations can be markedly altered due to the dioecious nature of the tree and the attractiveness to wildlife of the female’s fruit
  • Turepo is an ideal specimen tree, but can be planted as hedging and enjoys being clipped 
  • Grows well from fresh seed
  • Collect seed between March and May
  • Can be grown from semi-hardwood cuttings but may not always strike 
For price and availability list
* All prices are exclusive of GST

102 Omaha Flats Road, Matakana

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