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Tītoki

Once known as the tree with the finest oil, nowadays it’s the distinctive red and black fruit in demand by native birds.

Tītoki
Alectryon excelsus
Can grow as high as
18m
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More about this tree

  • Tītoki is found in coastal and lowland forest of the North Island and top half of the South Island, and its glossy dark green leaves make it an attractive specimen tree in gardens.
  • The tree flowers in spring and it takes up to a year for the fruit to mature. The furry woody fruit opens to reveal a hard black seed with a red fleshy covering. 
  • The red aril (fleshy part) is attractive to native birds, but is considered poisonous to humans. 
  • Tītoki's hard black seed was favoured by Māori and early European settlers alike as the source of the best oil. 
  • The oil was extracted in a time consuming process and used as hair and body oil. Early watchmakers also used it as a lubricant.
  • Medicinally, tītoki was used for treating sore or inflamed eyes, wounds, open sores, bruises, and taking internally as a laxative. 
  • The wood is strong and led to the tītoki being called New Zealand oak  - it is straight grained, easy to work with, and has a slight red colour. Its strength led to "peka tītoki", a phrase used in whakataukī which compares the tree’s tough wood to a leader, iwi or hapū who would not surrender.
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