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Kawakawa, NZ Pepper treeMacropiper excelsum or the maori name kawakawa is a native coastal shrub 2 - 3m tall.
The aromatic heart-shaped leaves have prominent veining and are a dark green to almost yellow green colour.
The colour of the leaves is lighter in more open situations. It has distinctive dark brown, zigzag branches, swollen at the nodes.
Flowering upright spikes occur on separate male & female plants.
The fleshy fruiting spikes, that appears on the female plant, turn a yellow to orange colour on maturity and provide food for native birds in January and February.
Kawakawa is found along coastal cliffs, sand dunes and lowland forests.
It is found throughout the North Island and northern half of the South Island.
Kawakawa prefers a moist rich & free-draining soil.
It prefers a semi-shade to shade position.
Kawakawa will tolerate an open windy situation but is frost tender.
The caterpillars of a native looper moth can damage the leaves of the kawakawa.
It is used for coastal restoration planting.
Kawakawa is one of the few native species that forms a densely branching shrub in the shade. Consequently it can be used under established planting that has started to open out below the canopy.
The fruit, bark and leaves of the kawakawa all have medicinal properties.
The leaves are made into a tea by being steeped in hot water.
Maori custom is to use the leaves as a head wreath for tangis, chew the leaves to reduce toothache and place leaves on a fire to create an insect repellent.
There are two other offshore island species of Macropiper
Macropiper excelsum psittacorum from the Kermadec Islands is similar to the mainland form but with longer flower spikes and larger thicker leaves that are glossy and deep green.
Macropiper melchior from the Three Kings Island.
The most striking of the 3 species, the leaves are very lush and glossy dark green. It prefers a dry shaded situation.
This species is less prone to caterpillar damage but is very frost tender
Associated plantingUse kawakawa with Astelia banksii, Pseudopanax lessonii, houpara, five finger, Phormium tenax, NZ flax, harakeke, native ground ferns and Rhopalostylis sapida, nikau,
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