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Prumnopitys taxifolia, ferruginea: Matai & Miro

May 31st 2005

Prumnopitys ferruginea Miro
Miro is a tall, round-headed tree reaching 25–30 m with a trunk up to 1 m
wide. The bark is greyish-brown to dark brown and falls off in thick flakes.
The pretty dark green leaves are 15–25 mm long, but longer on juvenile
plants. Miro produces reddish-purple fruits, 12–15 mm in diameter,
consisting of a fleshy drupe-like fruit containing a hard, woody seed. The
pink to red seed is ripe from early autumn to midwinter. Fair seed crops are
borne most years with heavy seeding (mast years) about every five years.
Miro seeds are slow and variable in their germination, up to 18 months
after ripeness. The fruit is a preferred food of the New Zealand pigeon,
which gorge on them in March–April.
Miro is a common forest tree found throughout New Zealand, in
lowland and lower montane forests, often wherever rimu occurs.
Miro seeds are notoriously slow and variable in their germination. They may not begin germination for 18 months after ripeness. They can still be viable 5 years after this. There is a bushmans' tale that the seeds will only germinate once they have passed through the gut of a pigeon, however this has been proven not to be the case.
Miro seeds may germinate quickest if buried beneath a layer of leaf litter, as the litter keeps the woody endocarp moist so that it weakens rapidly and the seed can absorb water and germinate sooner.

miro juveniles

Prumnopitys taxifola  Matai
Matai is a forest tree reaching 25–30 m and with a trunk up to
1.25 m in diameter, but with a marked decrease in height from north to
south in the country. It is notable for being one of the New Zealand trees
that undergoes a distinct juvenile stage, which differs radically from that
of the adult. Juvenile plants are divaricating in habit, with long, slender,
spreading and flexuous interlacing branches and sparsely carried brown
leaves. This growth habit can persist until the tree attains a height of around
6 m. There is a gradual change then to the adult form, with leaves of 1–2
cm long, blunt or shortly pointed, arranged in two flattened rows on the
branchlet, dark green above and greyish-green below. Matai is dioecious,
producing succulent, black drupe-like fruit with a waxy bloom, looking
like a very small plum, enclosing a hard nut 10 mm across. Seed fall is in
autumn, the second year after flowering, and seed years are infrequent.

matai juveniles

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