Of the dock family or Polygonaceae, there is in New Zealand a genus Muehlenbeckia, plants of which are mostly climbing or scrambling. The genus has in all about 20 species which are found in this country, Australia, the Pacific Islands, and South America. Pohuehue (a Maori name applied to other climbing plants as well) or M. australis, is a stout liane which climbs up trees to heights of 30 ft or more. It is found from the Three Kings to Stewart and Chatham Islands, also in Norfolk Island, and is closely related to an Australian species. It has greatly increased under settlement and is one of the commonest plants, forming impenetrable tangles in second-growth forest. Leaves of pohuehue grow up to 3 in. long and are about ovate in shape. There are dock-like stipules around the stems at the junction of the leaves. The fruit is a smallish, black triangular nut with a succulent covering. Birds eat it readily and pass the nut through, thus spreading the plant rapidly. The Maoris also included M. complexa in pohuehue. This plant has much the same distribution as M. australis, is a scrambler rather than a climber, forms masses of tangled, tough, wiry stems, and sometimes climbs over bushes and rocks. The leaves are up to three-quarters of an inch long, about orbicular, and are sometimes constricted in the middle. There are many forms of this species. M. ephedroides is a sprawling, usually leafless plant and, when leaves are present, they are linear. It occurs in sandy or gravelly places from sea level to montane altitudes and from about the middle of the North Island to Otago. M. axillaris is usually a prostrate, matted plant with stems and branches creeping under the surface. Sometimes it forms a straggling shrub.
by Alec Lindsay Poole, M.SC., B.FOR.SC., F.R.S.N.Z., Director-General of Forests, Wellington.