|Botanical Name:||Aristotelia serrata|
What does it look like?
Makomako is a small tree that grows up to 10 metres in height with broad, pale green leaves with serrated edges. The leaves come in opposite pairs from the branchlets, and are tinted purple on the under side. Makomako produce lots of flowers in October and November, which vary in colour from pale pink to deep red. Provided both male and female trees are grown, the flowers will be followed by berries, which also range in colour, from red to black. When it grows in cold districts Makomako is usually deciduous, but trees in warmer areas will hold some leaves.
Where does it grow?
Makomako grows well throughout all of New Zealand, from sea level to 1050 metres. It often occurs on the edge of the forest and other places where there is plenty of light, and is usually one of the first trees to grow after slips or fire have cleared an area of bush. It will grow well in most soils, except those that are very poorly drained, or particularly drought prone. It doesn’t grow well in very dry areas, and is frost prone when young.
Growing tips … in your plant growing unit
Don’t forget to trim the tops of the plants in late summer / autumn as they get to 30 cm in height to prevent them from getting too leggy. Leggy plants don’t grow as well as more compact ones once they are planted out. Makomako will grow easily from cuttings, and will transplant well.
Planting out for soil conservation
Makomako is mainly a colonising species in secondary successions. It is a good plant to use for planting for gully erosion control and slip-face revegetation, and is useful to provide early shelter for other plants to grow. Because it is palatable to possoms and stock, care must be taken when planting out to keep sheep and cattle away, and possoms in the area must be controlled.
Makomako is not a long-lived species and will usually die out after 10-15 years. This will allow the natural succession of other bush species to grow, provided there is a seed source present.
Used to …
The fruit of the makomako were eaten raw by the Maori, and made into a jam by the later European settlers. They also used the fruit to make wine (as the European name suggests). Makomako also had quite a few medicinal qualities and was used by the Maori for burns, boils, sore eyes and rheumatic pains.
The early settlers burned the wood to get charcoal to make gunpowder.
Did you know … ?
Makomako is a good tree to plant to provide food and protection for many of New Zealand’s native creatures. Both the tui and silvereye enjoy the fruit form the Makomako, and the kereru or wood pigeon eat both the fruit and the leaves. In the North Island, the holes commonly seen in the trunk of Makomako are likely to be larval tunnels of the large puriri moth.
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