Myrsine australis (Red Matipo)

The Maoris developed an infusion of the leaves to cure many aches, pains and conditions – from toothache to a general tonic. Before the great New Zealand clearances carried out by both Maori and European settlers it was common throughout the country but is now restricted to forest reservations of native species. Its crinkly leaves can confuse it with Pittosporum tenuifolium but the leaves are fleshier and with a distinctive red tinge after midsummer. It’s sometimes used as a hedge in New Zealand but in Britain it’s exceedingly rare and largely untried outside of London where it’s known to grow in the gardens of keen Kiwi horticulturalists who’ve settled in the city.

The pictures illustrate that it can become a shapely little multistemmed tree but as it grows on forest margins, it’s – frankly – hard to photograph in the wild. Fleshy little white flower clusters in June followed by small black fruit.

The ones in Mecklenburgh Square Gardens (south of King’s Cross tube station) London are 20ft tall after 50 years.

Tolerant of a great variety of soils and positions. Considered very hardy throughout its native New Zealand, but little tried in Britain. ‘By seed’.

N.B. When clipping several plants with the same tool, have a bucket containing a 5% bleach solution and swish your blades around for 30 seconds between plants to sterilise them. This will help avoid the chance of cross contamination of disease.

As with all woody plants, plant high, exposing as much of the taper at the base of the trunk as possible. Allowing soil to accumulate round the base of a tree can be fatal. Keep very well watered when first planted.

Category:
Hardiness traffic light amber

Hardiness level Amber

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IF IT HAS A AMBER TRAFFIC LIGHT
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Hardy in the Home Counties if sensibly sited (avoiding severe frost pockets, for example). Many Amber Labelled Plants are from cuttings from well-established plants that have survived many harsh winters in the South-East.

This is only meant as a guide. Please remember we're always on hand to give advice about plants and their frost hardiness.

Please remember that these coloured labels are only a rough guide.

General Point about Plant Hardiness: The commonly held belief that it's better to 'plant small' is perfectly true with herbaceous plants, but not necessarily true with woody plants. They need some 'wood' on them to survive severe cold - so plants of marginal hardiness in very cold areas should really be planted LARGER, rather than smaller, wherever possible.

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