Matipo (Myrsine australis) is a very attractive specimen tree or shrub that grows naturally in forest margins or scrub throughout the country. Matipo's dense foliage and compact growth habit (usually of three to four metres) provide effective shelter grown as a hedge or shrub border on exposed sites. You may know it as Māpou, Toro, or the Nightmare Tree.
Growing naturally in coastal areas and very tolerant of strong winds, matipo is tough, springy, and will not break or snap. It thrives in almost any soil as long as it’s not waterlogged. Because of this quality, a straight piece of matipo was used to make the lower piece of the handle of a bag net. It was also used on Chatham Islands to make keels of waka pahi.
How do we identify Matipo?
Distinctive features are
- its pale green to yellowish wavy-edged leaves and
- bright red stems on new growth tips
It is often mistaken for one of the Pittosporum family and is actually very similar to kōhūhū (Pittosporum tenuifolium, also known as black matipo), except the latter has black stems rather than red stems on new growth.