Tītokiis found in coastal and lowland forest of the North Island and top half of the South Island, and its glossy darkgreen 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 hardblack seed with a red fleshy covering.
The red aril (fleshy part) is attractive to native birds, but is considered poisonous to humans.
Tītoki'shard 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 alubricant.
Medicinally,tītokiwas used for treating sore or inflamed eyes, wounds, open sores, bruises, and taking internally as alaxative.
The wood is strong and led to thetītokibeing called New Zealand oak - it is straight grained, easy to work with, and hasa slight red colour. Its strength led to "pekatītoki", a phrase used in whakataukīwhich compares the tree’s tough woodto a leader, iwi orhapūwho would not surrender.