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Tree space, free space, eye space, mind space, gentle space - enjoy a couple of moments to refocus with two of our slower growing forest natives, Matai (Prumnopitys taxifolia) and Miro (Pectinopitys ferruginea). This handsome pair of New Zealand native trees is sometimes confused, particularly if the foliage is too high to define, but there are distinct differences despite each carrying plum-like fruit and yielding sought-after timber.

Matai (Prumnopitys taxifolia)

Matai is a hardy upright medium-sized specimen forest tree which grows to three metres over ten years and attains a maximum height of 20-25m. It has a wildly attractive red juvenile form with long droopy interlacing branches. This habit endures up to 3-6m in height when lateral branches and upright leaders being to appear. Adult Matai develop lush round crowns which flatten as they age. Blue-grey bark protects the upper trunk but lower down is deep violet brown. T sheds 5-7cm flakes producing a ‘hammered’ look. The inside flakes are light coloured, whereas Miro flake inner surfaces are dark. Shed flakes frequently reveal red inner bark. Leaves are narrow and sharply pointed, reddish on top and grey underneath with white strips. Small blue-black male and female flowers (cones) are produced on different trees (dioecious) from October through December. Succulent pea-sized black fruit containing a hard nut develops over the ensuing 18 months during March and April so flowers and fruit from the previous season usually exist simultaneously.

Matai is predominantly a species of lowland and hill country from sea level to about 600m but can ascend to 750m in the North Island. It craves nutrient-dense soils and is often found on fertile alluvial ground, though it is also moderately drought-resistant.

$140 each             POA 

Miro (Pectinopitys ferruginea)

Miro is a dioecious hardy specimen forest tree which grows to 3m over ten years and up to 25 - 30m. Miro boles are gray- black and sometimes furrowed with only a hint of Matai’s defining hammer marks. It sheds sizeable deep flat flakes with dark inner surfaces exposing purpled inner bark. Miro’s compact crown is spherical but asymmetrical, and can take up half the total tree height. Large branches grow straight out from the trunk unlike Matai’s ascendant limbs, and their huge forms tend to obvious crookedness.

Miro saplings exhibit the same attractive weeping foliage and form as the adult. The leaves are curved, a darker glossy green on the upper surface, pointy-tipped, with distinct mid-ribs. Reddish male and female cones are produced in mid-summer and the green fruit becomes full-sized (2cm) a year later, ripening to dark reddish purple from March to May, although it is retained by the tree until September or October. The succulent yellow-fleshed plum-like fruit contains a nut with a single seed and is an important food source for kereru and other birds. 

Miro has one of the greatest distributions of our native trees, from North Auckland to Stewart Island. It is common at sea level to 1050m in the North and up to 750m in the South, being limited only by heavy frosts and sparse rainfall. It adapts to many soils except badly drained wet situations, and is well-represented in the free-draining pumice forests of the North Island volcanic plateau.

It responds to a heavy trim creating excellent hedge plant potential although it will be a slow-growing one.

$140 each                   $650 each

Matai and Miro are from the Podocarpaceae family and are long-lived, Matai up to 1,000 years and Miro up to 600 years. Burstall and Sales (1984) describes one Matai to be the most visited native with the exception of Tane Mahuta, the great Kauri. At 25.5m this Matai is found on Hongi’s Track between Lake Rotoiti and Lake Rotoehu. Maori legend tells of the chieftainess, Hinehopu regularly walking the track past this Matai between her two homes in the 16th century.


  • When Matai shed flakes from the trunk, they often unmask a bright red inner bark. Maori legend claims that Matai was one of the trees spattered by Maui’s blood in a fight with an eel.
  • The fruit was collected by men either climbing into the tree with baskets or shaking fruit to the ground onto mats. It was washed and eaten raw. 
  • Fruit is described as sweet, rather slimy, but of an agreeable flavour. 
  • Juvenile and adult forms are so pronouncedly divergent early botanists, pioneers, and even Maori assumed them to be different species. 
  • Matai is renowned for good quality heartwood timber 
  • Sapwood is minimal, existing only in a narrow band
  • The timber is not useful in contact with the ground, but off the ground though subject to weather its wearability is such that as a softwood, it surpasses most hardwoods
  • Heartwood grain is straight and splits well
  • Recognised as one of the world’s superior flooring timbers
  • Today only used by craft furniture-makers and wood-turners
  • Maori used it in place of Totara where Totara was unavailable
  • Seed years occur perhaps one in ten but produce copious fruit
  • To propagate, collect ripe seeds from April to June
  • May take five years to germinate
  • Stratifying for three months will reduce germination period to six months for half the seeds
  • Seedlings grow under shadier conditions than most conifers but growth is slow
  • Grow best when planted in moist fertile soils such as on gully floors


  • Miro bark has resin canals which exude gum when cut
  • Since Matai doesn’t exhibit this feature, it was used as mode to distinguish between the species by early bushmen 
  • Tuhoe people of Te Urawera identify good breeding rates amongst kereru in in heavy Miro fruiting years every 3-4 years
  • Kereru develop extreme thirst after a Miro berry feast and drink at the nearest available water
  • Maori set snares around pools of water near Miro trees to catch them
  • Miro fruit provided a food source for Maori but it has a strong turpentine taste which also taints the flesh of kereru which eat it
  • Maori used Miro bark and leaves for various medicinal purposes
  • The heartwood when dried easily splits and needs to be bored before being nailed.
  • The timber resembles Matai until seen in cross-section with a darkly coloured central portion of the heartwood
  • The proportion of sapwood to heartwood is much larger than in Matai
  • The grain is more or less straight, fine and even
  • Neither segment will sustain contact with the ground or exposure to weather and the sapwood is vulnerable to attack by the borer, Anobium
  • Used in the correct situation Miro timber is hard and elastic, and is actually the strongest of all the native conifers
  • Propagation is best from seed but can take from eight to ten years to germinate
  • Tenacious as seedlings even in poor light conditions near seed sources, Miro grows slowly and in such conditions may be only half a metre tall at between 30 – 50 years.
For price and availability list
* All prices are exclusive of GST

12A Takatu Rd, Matakana

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