Found growing in the low canopy layer in the coastal forest, its glossy green leaves and large orange fruit make karaka easy to identify.
Karaka is one of the Māori words for orange, referencing the large orange fruit which occur on this tree in the early months of the year. The fruit is strong smelling and poisonous.
The fruit contains a toxin called karakin which is poisonous to animals – though the smell of the berries is usually enough of a deterrent.
The kernel of the fruit can be eaten, but only after it has been boiled and steeped in water for several days. Otherwise, it was said that it causes madness and relaxes the joints so that they bend in the wrong way.
Karaka leaves are said to be healing when applied to wounds with the shiny side to the wound.