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Kunzea ericioides, Kanuka & Leptospermum scoparium, Manuka

Kunzea ericoides, kanukaKanuka Kunzea robusta

Kanuka grows to 5-7 metres or more in height.
It is fast growing and has an erect habit and occurs throughout NZ.

It will grow in full sun or semi-shade.
Kanuka is very hardy, tolerant of drought, frosts and poor soils.

Kanuka is faster growing and taller growing than Manuka.

Kanuka has white flowers 4-5 mm, which appears in abundance once a year in mid summer, and generally there are no seed capsules except briefly in late summer.

Manuka Leptospermum scoparium

Leptospermum scoparium in flower October Manuka is found throughout New Zealand and probably is one the most common species in New Zealand from wetland, coastal and lowland forest.

It is a shrub growing to 3-4 metres and is also fast growing and is one of the first species to come back after land disturbance.
Manuka by contrast prefers wetter soils, persistently dominating wetland margins. Manuka is very tolerant of wind but is not shade tolerant.

The leaves are very small and prickly to touch where as kanuka leaves are soft to touch.
It has white flowers 10-12mm and flowers profusely a little earlier than kanuka and additionally in irregular bursts at other times.

Manuka has hard woody seed capsules that remain on the plant for a year or more after flowering.
At any time of the year you will see seed capsules of various ages. The manuka flowers and the seed capsules are both larger than kanuka. The common name of tea tree arose from the leaves being used by the early settlers to brew tea.

Manuka is comparatively short lived, generally to about 60 years. As the stand approaches this age there is progressive breakdown of the canopy as individual manuka die. This allows seedlings of other native species to come through.

Important distinctions between Kanuka and Manuka

Kanuka and manuka are successional species, which dominate key parts in the series or succession of vegetation types, which follow the colonizing of a new site

Both manuka and kanuka are used as a nurse crop with other early colonizing plants for revegetation / restoration planting and are also very effective in erosion control.

Both are grown from fresh seed and will germinate within a month of sowing.

Please note - When planting either species be aware that they don’t tolerate any root disturbance.

The status of both species is not threatened, though some stands are at risk from clearance for farmland or through felling for firewood.

Tree Shrub
Not wet tolerant Tolerates both wet and dry conditions
Smaller flowers and seed  
Leaves with no sharp points and soft to touch Pointed leaves and prickly to touch
Flowers mid Summer only  
Seed capsules only on the plant in late Summer After flowering seed capsules remain on the plant for over a year.
Tolerates shade Needs light
  Not as long lived as Kanuka