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Ngaio

Ngaio is easy to spot — its light green leaves are speckled with white/yellow dots.

Ngaio
Myoporum laetum
Can grow as high as
10m
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More about this tree

  • Ngaio is found in coastal and lowland forest and, because it is generally avoided by stock, is often one of the few remaining species where cattle have been grazing.  
  • The leaf spots are caused by pellucid glands which contain ngaione, a liver toxin that causes sickness or death in cows, horses, sheep and pigs.
  • Ngaio's ripe berries also contain ngaione, so should not be eaten.
  • Māori rubbed the leaves of the tree on their skin to repel mosquitos and sandflies, and early European farmers used the oil as a sheep dip to ward off parasites.
  • The ngaio tree features in Māori moon mythology. It is said that the craters of the moon resemble a woman, Rona, and a ngaio tree. Rona was upset with the moon, Mārama, when he went behind a cloud and caused her to trip and fall, so she hurled insults at him. Mārama became so angry that he reached down and grabbed Rona and pulled her to the night sky. She grabbed on to a ngaio tree as she was pulled upward, but that tree was wrenched from the ground and remained with her on the moon.
  • It is a cautionary tale against cursing, and when someone is using foul language, they may be told “Kīa mahara te he o Rona”: remember what happened to Rona.
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