Found in coastal and lowland forests in the upper half of the North Island, the glossy ribbed leaves, spreading crown and colourful flowersmake thepūriria distinctive and attractive tree.
The large colourful flowers look like a snapdragon in pink to red hues, and their tubular shape and abundant nectar make them attractive tonectar-loving birds.
Pūriritrees can grow straight or gnarled. Often the gnarled ones are found discarded in farmland – they were left behind while the straightones were felled and used for timber.
European settlers used the wood for ships masts through to fence posts, and because of its durability it was referred to as New Zealand teakor New Zealand mahogany.
The wood is not so good if thepūririmoth has lived in it, as the larvae makes vertical burrows through the trunk.
The femalepūririmoth is the largest moth in New Zealand with a wing span of 15cm. Caterpillars start their life on the forest floor and spendabout three months in rotting wood feeding on fungus, then they move to a tree which they climb and bore through the bark of a trunk orbranch, covering the entrance with a web that is camouflaged to match the tree bark. The caterpillars live in the tree for 2-3 years feeding onwood around the opening and making vertical burrows.
An infusion of the leaves was used by Māori as a treatment for ulcers and skin complaints, and the heartwood was used to create a brightyellow dye.