Identify New Zealand native plants

Plant heritage NZ Order on line

Use this guide and the photos and images to help identify common New Zealand flowering native trees and shrubs. 

This is not a definitive guide but describes the more common flowering trees and shrubs you may encounter in the wild or at a garden centre.

Browse the list below if you know the species name, or follow links for more information.

For Pittosporum use this key

For Conifers or Gymnosperms use this key

For Coprosma use this excellent key from Landcare research or this page

For Beech use this key  

Also check the New Zealand Plant Conservation Website and Flora of New Zealand.

Plant Phytography blog  Phytography(Gr. phyton: plant; grapho: to write)  The branch of botany that deals with the descriptive terminology of plants and their parts. It provides the vocabulary for plant description, identification, and classification. This site presents a daily botanical term with an explanation of the word, its meaning and a photograph that demonstrates the term. All photos are New Zealand native plants.

 Shrubs or small trees with compound leaves

  Schefflera digitata Pate. Found in damp parts of the forest. Leaves are softer and more toothed than  Pseudopanax. Leaflets 7-18 cm long.
  Pseudopanax gilliesii Three fingered five finger. Shrub to 5 m. Endemic to Whangaroa and Little Barrier Island.
  Pseudopanax arboreus. Five finger. Leaves 3-8 foliate leaflets 7-20 cm long.A small tree or shrub reaching 8 metres. Found in lowland Forests throughout NZ. Flowers and berries in umbels.
  Pseudopanax lessonii Houpara Coastal Five finger. Shrub to 7 m. Leaves 3-5 foliolate. Leaflets 8-10cm. Note the very long petiole. North Cape to Poverty Bay.
Pseudopanax laetus. The largest leafed Pseudopanax. Petioles and mid ribs purplish red. Central North Island
  Melicope ternata Wharangi. Shrub or small tree reaching 8 m. 3 foliolate. North Island near the coast.
Elatostema rugosum Parataniwha. Leaflets 5-13 cm long reddish green. Soft stems. Common in damp groun. Plant to .5m high.
Hibiscus trionum   Leaves trifoliate 4-10 cm. Obvious flowers.  Possibly introduced by early settlers and not native.

Shrubs with simple leaves longer than 2cm.

  Aristotelia serrata Wineberry Makomako. Shrub or small tree reaching 9 m. Leaves 5-12cm long with a long petiole. Blade of leaf broad, rose coloured below. Flowers red-white. Berry 6-9mm; black.
  Hedycarya arborea Porokaiwhiri Pigeonwood. Leaves opposite 5-12 cm long. Three Kings to Banks Peninsula.
Haloragis erecta A shrub of scrublands. Often weedy. Note 4 angled stem and leaves with strongly serrate margins.
  Coprosma grandifolia syn. Coprosma australis Raurekau Leaves 10-22 cm long, dull green or mottled. Shrub or small tree reaching 7m.
  Coprosma lucida Karamu leaves 5-12 cm long. Shrub reaching 5m. Leaves bright green,glossy,thick.
  Coprosma repens Taupata leaves 2.5- 7.5 cm long shiny green and glossy. Shrub reaching 8m. Often prostrate. Coastal. 
Copros ma robusta Karamu. leaves 5-12 cm long, brownish green, thick. Scruffy shrub to 5m.
  Macropiper excelsum Kawakawa. Leaves 5-12 cm. long. Aromatic. North island and south to Banks Peninsula.
Hebe stricta Korimiko. Leaves 5-10 cm. long. Flowers white or mauve, longer than the leaf.  North Island and Marlborough.
  Hoheria populnea Lacebark Houhere. Leaves 5-12 cm long, often purplish beneath. Flowers white. North Cape to Waikato.
Hoheria glabrata Leaves 5-12 cm long. Small tree or shrub to 10m.Western side of South Island.
  Colensoa physaloides Koru. Shrub to 1.5 m. Leaves 8-18 cm, similar in leaf shape to an Hydrangea. Soft and tender. Flowers and berries purple or violet. North of Whangarei.
Melicytus macrophyllus Large leaved Mahoe. Shrub reaching 6 m. Glossy leaves 7-15 cm long. Kaitaia to Dunedin.
  Melicytus ramiflorus Mahoe Whiteywood. Leaves 5-12 cm. long. Shrub or small tree reaching 10 m. Lowland forest throughout NZ.
  Myoporum laetum Ngaio. A shrub or small tree reaching 8 m. Leaves 3-10 cm. long. with small spotted glands. White flowers. Purple berries.
  Solanum aviculare Poroporo. Softwooded shrub reaching 3 m. Leaves variable in shape about 10-30 cm. long. Purple flowers. Yellow or orange berries
  Entelea arborescens Whau. Leaves 10-24 cm long rounded with small hairs. North Cape to Raglan near the coast and Nelson
Pseudopanax ferox Savage leaved lancewood. Leaves 7-15 cm. long. Small tree reaching 7m.
  Pseudopanax crassifolium Horoeka Lancewood. Leaves 7-20 cm. long. Tree reaching 13 m. Distinctive juvenile form with leaves 15-30 cm long. Auckland to Stewart Island. Picture is of adult form.
 Dodonaea viscosa Akeake NZ Hop Bush. Shrub or small tree reaching 10 m. Leaves 2-10 cm. Northcape to Greymouth. Prefers dry spots.
 Pisonia brunonnianum Parapara. Small tree or shrub reaching 10m. Leaves 10-40cm long, glossy green. Sticky seeds 3-5 cm long that may trap small birds and insects. Three Kings to East Cape.
  Fuchsia excorticata Tree Fuchsia Kotukutuku. A deciduous shrub or small tree to 10 m. Leaves 3-12cm long and slender. Flowers red or purple, 2-3 cm long. Berry 1-1.5 cm long, purplish black.
Mida salicifolia MaireSmall tree or shrub. Leaves 7-12 cm long , variable in width. Lowland forests of the North Island.
Elingamita johnsonii Shrub to 6 m.From west island on the Three Kings this plant is becoming more common in Northern gardens.
Grisilinia lucida Puka. Shrub reaching 8m., often an epiphyte on tall trees. Berry 8mm. long, dark purple.
Grisilinia litoralis Kapuka Broadleaf. Leaves 2-10cm long and assymetrical. Berry 6mm long black.
Pomaderris kumerahou Kumerahou, Gumdiggers soap. Leaves 5-8cm. long with prominent veins and midribs. A shrub to 3m. Flowers numerous and bright yellow in spring. North cape to Bay of Plenty.

Leucopogon fasiculata Mingimingi Leaves 1-2.5 cm long and arranged in bundles or whorls. Juvenile form with larger leaves. Shrub reaching 5m. Often found in dry spots North cape to Canterbury.

Lophomyrtus pedunculata Rohutu Leaves 6-12 mm long red and oval. Bay of Islands and south.

  Sophora prostrata Dwarf Kowhai . Excessively divaricating shrub with zigzag branches. Leaves 1-3 cm made of 3-11 leaflets. Banks Peninsula but common in gardens

Pittosporum pimelioides Leaves 1-4cm. long. Shrub to 2m. North Cape to Bay of Islands

Small leaved  shrubs with alternate leaves and toothed or lobed margins         

Fuschia procumbens This ground herb is found in Northern coastal cliffs, and is a common groundcover in gardens

Melicope simplex Leaves 1-2cm long, winged petiole. Shrub reaching 4 m.


Clematis paniculata Puawhananga.Large woody climber with 5-10cm flowers, very showy. Forests throughout NZ.

Metrosideros carminea. Leaves 1.5-3cm long. Carmine red flowers. Mangonui to East Cape.  

Trees with simple leaves

Pennantia corymbosa Kaikomako A tree reaching 12 m. Has a juvenile divaricating form with interlacing twigs and branches. Leaves 3-10cm irregularly toothed. Adult leaves shown here. Fruit a small black drupe. 8mm long.

  Elaeocarpus dentatus Hinau. Tall forest tree to 35 m. leaves 8-15cm.long. Bottom of leaf has pits at the midrib vein

Knightia excelsa  Rewarewa Tree reaching 30 m. Leaves 10-15 cm, coarsely toothed. Flowers velvety red and yellow. Fruit like a canoe 4-6cm. Common tree of ridges and dry spots. North cape to Marlborough.

  Metrosideros excelsa pohutukawa NZ Christmas tree. Tree reaching 25m. Leaves2-10cm long, leathery and with a hairy underside.

Planchonella costata Tawapou Tree reaching 20m. Leaves 5-10 cm long, shining green. Red berry 2.5-4cm long,of 2or3 hard banana shaped seeds. Found on coastal headlands Northcape to Opotiki.

Trees with Compound leaves

 Ackama rosaefolia Makamaka

Tree reaching 13 metresl Leaves 7-25cm long; leaflets 3-8cm long, mild serrations on margins

Sophora microphylla Kowhai Leaves of 25-40 leaflets each leaflet 6-8mm long. Tree reaching 10 metres with a distinct divaricating juvenile form.Deciduous

Vitex lucens Puriri Leaves of3-5 leaflets, each 5-12 cm long, glossy green. Common tree of northern lowland forests. Fruit a red berry with seeds inside a hard Kernel

Dysoxylum spectabile kohekohe. Tall forest tree to 25m.

For Pittosporum use this key

For Conifers or Gymnosperms use this key

For Coprosma use this excellent key from Landcare research or this page

For Beech use this key  

Also check the New Zealand Plant Conservation Website and Flora of New Zealand.

Also check out

Teachers and Students. Free educational resources

Slideshows ready to use in the classroom, or for student projects. Five slideshows that cover the special features of New Zealand plants with many examples of how plants are adapted to their environment. Educational resources from here

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