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Pūriri

A good-looking tree which is popular with birds, moths and man. 

Pūriri
Vitex lucens
Can grow as high as
20m
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More about this tree

  • Found in coastal and lowland forests in the upper half of the North Island, the glossy ribbed leaves, spreading crown and colourful flowers make the pūriri a 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 to nectar-loving birds. 
  • Pūriri trees can grow straight or gnarled. Often the gnarled ones are found discarded in farmland – they were left behind while the straight ones 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 teak or New Zealand mahogany. 
  • The wood is not so good if the pūriri moth has lived in it, as the larvae makes vertical burrows through the trunk.
  • The female pūriri moth is the largest moth in New Zealand with a wing span of 15cm. Caterpillars start their life on the forest floor and spend about 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 or branch, 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 on wood 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 bright yellow dye.
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