Alseuosmia (‘perfume of the grove’ from the Greek alsos = grove of trees; eu = well; some = perfume, scent)
Alseuosmia is endemic to New Zealand, but debate exists among botanists as to the correct classification of this variable genus. Two species are generally recognised; both are straggly shrubs that grow to about 2 m. The seeds of both species are found within a red-crimson berry, with up to10 seeds per berry. Plants prefer a shaded position, as they are intolerant of strong sunlight. The big surprise is the strength of the scent from such an inconspicuous flower, without doubt the most fragrant of any in the New Zealand flora.
Alseuosmia macrophylla (macrophylla = large leaved)
This is a glossy-leaved, much-branched shrub to 2 m. The leaves, to 4 cm wide by 10 cm long, often vary in shape on the same plant and nearby plants; they are sometimes lobed or slightly toothed on the margins. Single tubular flowers to 4 cm long are produced in winter or early spring. They are crimson, with tattered margins of petals, and very fragrant. Reddish berries ripen during February–April. The plant occurs in undergrowth of lowland and montane forests from North Cape to Marlborough.
Tubular flowers of Alseuosmia macrophylla (karapapa) produce New Zealand’s most gloriously fragrant scents.
Known as northern karapapa, this forms an untidy shrub up to 1 m with broad leaves to 3 cm long. Creamy-red flowers to 3 cm across are followed by crimson berries 8–12 mm long. The species occurs from North Cape to Marlborough in undergrowth of lowland and montane forests.
Alseuosmia banksii (northern karapapa) flowers are tubular and creamy red, with a pungent scent.
Alseuosmia banksii and A. macroplylla produce sweet-tasting red/crimson berries containing up to 10 seeds per berry. Both species can hold flowers and seed at the same time.