This is a common hardwood tree throughout the mixed and beech forests of the North, South, and Stewart Islands from lowland altitudes to subalpine scrub. The specific name littoralis, meaning coastal, is really a misnomer since the tree is principally found away from the coast. It grows to heights of about 30 ft or somewhat more, and has a short gnarled trunk dividing into many branches and a wide spreading crown. The leaves are broad and rounded, thickish and somewhat glossy on the upper surface. They are especially relished by browsing animals in general, cattle, goats, and deer. Deer will in fact readily eat the yellowed leaves as they fall from the crowns and they will reach as high as they can for fresh leaves. The flowers are very small, and male and female are borne on separate trees. The fruit is a small, dark purple drupe.
There are only about eight species in the genus Griselinia. The distribution of them is interesting, since six are confined to Chile and two, including G. littoralis, to New Zealand. The other native species is a handsome large-leaved tree, G. lucida or puka, which occurs throughout lowland forest both in the North and in the South Islands. The thick, rounded leaves are from 4 to 8 in. long, very unequally sided at the base and glossy above. This species frequently grows as an epiphyte on tall trees when it sends down long roots which grow to the soil and sometimes reach a thickness of 6 in.
by Alec Lindsay Poole, M.SC., B.FOR.SC., F.R.S.N.Z., Director-General of Forests, Wellington.