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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


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(Beilschmiedia taraire and B. tawa).

These two trees are endemic New Zealand representatives of a genus, containing about 40 species, that is mainly tropical. The family to which the genus belongs, the laurel family, is also largely tropical. Taraire is a northern representative and is a common lowland or coastal forest tree from almost the North Cape to about latitude 38° S. It usually denotes soils of above average fertility. Tawa occurs in lowland to lower montane forest from almost the North Cape to the Seaward Kaikoura Range in the South Island. It is most plentiful about the central pumice plateau of the North Island where it is the major component of many forests.

Trees of both species grow to medium sizes, 60 to 75 ft tall, and up to 2 to 3 ft in diameter. The plants are dioecious, with small inconspicuous flowers, in panicles hidden among the leaves. The leaves of taraire are elliptical, up to 6 in. long, and have reddish-brown hairs beneath; those of tawa are more lanceolate and whitish beneath. Both have large purplish berries which are relished by native pigeons. The timber from both trees is used commercially, principally for furniture and flooring, though it requires preservative treatment to protect it from the common house borer. It is also very difficult to nail.

The amount of taraire is limited today because the soil on which it grows makes good agricultural land. Tawa forest, on the other hand, is still comparatively extensive in the centre of the North Island, and much is likely to remain because of steep topography or high elevations. Although not a great deal is yet known about the tree, the prospects of management are hopeful. Selection felling is already a system adopted in some places. Growth, although not the equal of that of exotic forest trees on similar soils, is sufficiently attractive to encourage management measures.

by Alec Lindsay Poole, M.SC., B.FOR.SC., F.R.S.N.Z., Director-General of Forests, Wellington.


Alec Lindsay Poole, M.SC., B.FOR.SC., F.R.S.N.Z., Director-General of Forests, Wellington.