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Myoporum laetum Forst. f. Prodr. 1786, 44.

Ngaio, Mousehole Tree

Alt. name: Myoporum perforatum

Derivation: Myoporum = closed pores, referring to the glands in the leaves; laetum = happy, vivid, attractive, cheerful, joyous

photo by miranda woodward - Okura Walkway, 8 October 2006

photo by miranda woodward - Okura Walkway, 8 October 2006

Tree growing by edge of estuary near Stillwater end of track.

It is evergreen, grows to a height of 25-30 feet, and blossoms in late winter to mid spring. It is found near the coast and in lowland forest from North Cape to Dunedin.

According to Maori legend, a Ngaio tree can be seen on the moon:

The man in the moon becomes, in Maori legend, a woman, one Rona by name. This lady, it seems, once had occasion to go by night for water to a stream. In her hand she carried an empty calabash. Stumbling in the dark over stones and the roots of trees she hurt her shoeless feet and began to abuse the moon, then hidden behind clouds, hurling at it some such epithet as "You old tattooed face, there!" But the moon-goddess heard, and reaching down caught up the insulting Rona, calabash and all, into the sky. In vain the frightened woman clutched, as she rose, the tops of a ngaio-tree. The roots gave way, and Rona with her calabash and her tree are placed in the front of the moon for ever, an awful warning to all who are tempted to mock at divinities in their haste.

From : The Long White Cloud by William Pember Reeves (1899)

The identifying feature is the presence of oil glands in the leaves which can be seen clearly when the leaf is held up to the light. An Australian cousin is highly favoured as a landscaping shrub in New Zealand.

NZ Flora references

Genus: Myoporum
Species: Myoporum laetum

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