This rare and unique plant grows in habitats within the Ahukawakawa catchment of Egmont National Park and nowhere else in the world. Growing up to 2.5 metres in height, this hardy native shrub is covered in greyish-brown spiky stems that form a barricade against curious herbivores or unsuspecting trampers.
Both of its main habitats are on the margins of Ahukawakawa Swamp nestled between Mt Taranaki and the Pouākai Range and the southern tree-line of the Pouākai Range.
These habitats are harsh places to live with exposure to either extreme freezing in the frosty swamp hollow or severe winds at the steep tree-line. As a result, the Pouākai shrub māhoe is one of the toughest characters in New Zealand’s flora and it sure does look the part.
Pouākai shrub māhoe produces small, white or purple spotted berries that hang down from its branches in great numbers. The berries are believed to be a favourite food of native lizards who can avoid the spiky stems by scampering up the trunk from ground level.
It is classified as Nationally Endangered and is believed to have ancient heritage as a stable hybrid between two Melicytus species, namely M. flexuosus and a member of the M. alpinus group, both of which are no longer found in Taranaki.
Did you know
- The Pouākai shrub is related to the common forest tree, māhoe (Melicytus ramiflorus) and was given the scientific name Melicytus drucei after the highly-respected New Zealand botanist A. P. Druce.
- The impressive exterior of this plant is no match for possums or hares and intense pest control like that provided by Taranaki Mounga is essential for its survival.