This is a small to tall shrub common in montane to subalpine forests from the Mamuku Plateau southwards to Stewart Island. In the southern part of its distribution it extends from the lowlands to the timberline. It is unpalatable to deer and as these introduced animals (mainly red deer) eat out the forest undergrowth, horopito frequently takes its place. Thus it is becoming very common in some broadleaf forests. Frequently it forms thickets after the destruction of forest. The leaves are up to 2 in. long, about elliptic, dull green and red-blotched above. They are glaucous below and are peppery to taste. The small flowers occur in fascicles; the fruits are dark-red to black and fleshy.
Another species, P. axillaris, is also known as horopito. It occurs in lowland and lower montane forests from the north to the top half of the South Island. It is taller growing, forming a small tree up to 25 ft high; the leaves are larger and glossy above and the fruit is red. The two species hybridise where they meet.
Pseudowintera is an endemic New Zealand genus of what is considered a most primitive family of flowering plants, the Winteraceae. Most members of this family are found in tropical South-East Asia and South America.
by Alec Lindsay Poole, M.SC., B.FOR.SC., F.R.S.N.Z., Director-General of Forests, Wellington.