This is one of the most common coastal trees, both in coastal forest and in open places, around the shores of New Zealand. It extends also to the Three Kings, Kermadec, and Chatham Islands. Because of its rapid growth, it is widely planted for quick shelter or ornament. The family to which it belongs, Myoporaceae, is a small one that is mainly Australian, but extends also to Malaya and further northwards around the Pacific. Myoporum is mainly an Australian genus with species extending as far as China and Japan. Australian species have been introduced into New Zealand and possibly hybridise with M. laetum.
Ngaio grows to a height of about 30 ft and is a much-branched, rounded tree. The leaves are bright green and somewhat fleshy, 2–4 in. long, oblong-lanceolate, and shallowly toothed in the upper half. They are thickly studded with oil glands in which bacteria live. Flowers are small and appear as little clusters in the axils of leaves. The fruit is a small purplish drupe.
by Alec Lindsay Poole, M.SC., B.FOR.SC., F.R.S.N.Z., Director-General of Forests, Wellington.