(Melicytus ramiflorus). This is one of the tree members of the widely spread violet family. The genus Melicytus has only four species, of which mahoe occurs in Norfolk, Tonga, and Fiji Islands as well as in New Zealand. It is a small, much-branched tree growing to a height of about 30 ft. In open lowland and lower montane forest throughout the country it is one of the commonest trees. It frequently starts as an epiphyte on tree ferns. The bark is a whitish colour and the branchlets very brittle. Leaves are light green, 3–5 in. long, oblong-lanceolate and with small, blunt teeth. They are readily eaten by stock and other introduced animals, particularly the Australian opossum. Flowers are very small and appear on the thick branches. The fruit is a small purple berry.
M. macropyhllus, a tree in lowland to lower montane forest from Northland to about the centre of the North Island, is closely related to mahoe. The main difference is in the larger coarser leaves from 5 to 7 or 8 in. long. Another New Zealand species, M. lanceolatus, has narrow lanceolate leaves. There is a fourth species which is a shrub with small leaves.
by Alec Lindsay Poole, M.SC., B.FOR.SC., F.R.S.N.Z., Director-General of Forests, Wellington.