A medium sized tree, found in the North and South Island, often in forests that grow only varieties of beech.
Tawhairaunuigrows best in foothills and inland valleys with moist, well drained soil. Wherever it grows well, it tends to dominatethe forest, and can live for more than 300 years.
The tree has small leaves (2-4 cm) and separate male and female flowers which are also tiny and quite inconspicuous.
Beech trees only seed every 3-5 years when the conditions are right — but when they do, they can produce massive quantities ofseeds.
Widespread seeding is called ‘masting’ and during years of a heavy seed fall, about 50 million seeds will fall per hectare in a beechforest. This creates a lot of extra food for mice and rats, so in these years, extra predator control is needed to protect our nativebirds.
The beech scale insect lives in the bark of the tree and draws off the sap, excreting sugary liquid drops known as honeydew, whichin turn feeds a range of birds (includingtūī,tītokiandkākā) and insects (lizards, honeybees and wasps) as well as rats and possums.