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Corynocarpus laevigatus karaka

November 28th 2004

Cornyocarpus laevigatus                                                                       

 A glossy leaved tree of coastal forests that produces attractive orange berries which are a popular food of the wood pigeon. Karaka is easily cultivated in sun or shade and can be grown inside as a feature plant. Frost tender when young. 6-10 metres tall when mature.

The fruit exude gases on ripening that sometimes cause premature yellowing and leaf fall of leaves close to fruit clusters. Ripening fruits have a strong characteristic odour which is heavy and unpleasant to the human nose. Analysis of the volatiles of ripening karaka berries were an alcohol, an aldehyde, and the methyl and ethyl esters of 2 organic acids.The ethyl ester of butanoic acid was the major contributor to the distinctive smell of the fruit. Karaka fruits produced little ethylene which is the gas usually responsible for causing leaf fall and fruit ripening in deciduous trees.

The seeds can be gathered beneath the tree in January or February or picked directly from the tree when ripe. The seeds must not be allowed to dry out and it is best if they are sown in a deep seed tray straight  away. They can be stored for a few months in a moist plastic bag in the fridge.

They are quick to germinate and grow and can be 40 cm tall 2 months from germination. They have a long tap root and care must be taken when transplanting the seedling not to break this root. Ensure the container is deep enough to allow the tap root to reach about 15cm on a 20cm. plant. Some of the present day distribution can be viewed as due to the dispersal by pre european maori. The seeds were a prized food source and  migratory people could have planted groves of these trees.

If you wish to learn more about native plants I suggest one of these natural history books from fishpond

Life-size Guide to New Zealand Native Ferns: Featuring the Caterpillars Which Feed on ThemA Field Guide to the Native Edible Plants of New ZealandGardener's Encyclopaedia of NZ Native PlantsTrees and Shrubs of New ZealandThe Reed Field Guide to New Zealand Native Trees