apetala: Without petals
Coastal maire, Bastard Ironwood (Norfolk Island)
Nestegis apetala (Vahl) L.A.S.Johnson
Vascular - Native
Olea apetala Vahl; Olea endlicheri F.muell.; Gymnelaea apetala (Vahl) L.A.S.Johnson; Nestegis elliptica Raf. nom. illeg.;
Indigenous. Norfolk Island and New Zealand (North Island including northern offshore islands from the Three Kings Islands south to Hauturu (Clark Island), near Whangamata. Nestegis apetala is especially common on the Poor Knights and Motukino (Fanal Island) - on the latter of which it forms a distinct, pure forest type.
Strictly coastal. Inhabiting coastal forest often along the exposed margins, also on rocky slopes, cliff faces, talus slopes and exposed ridgelines, as well as forming a minor subcanopy in closed forest. Nestegis apetala is often an important component of northern offshore island forests where it co-habits with pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa), tawapou (Planchonella costata), coastal mahoe (Melicytus novaezelandiae), Streblus spp. (especially S. banksii), houpara (Pseudopanax lessonii) and whau (Entelea arborescens).
Stout spreading dioecious (?gynodioecious) tree up to 10 m. tall; trunk up to 1 m diameter, sometimes several arising from base, these often twisted; bark firm (not flaking), often deeply furrowed, grey to grey-brown, tessellated. Branches spreading, often tortuous. Branchlets glabrous. Leaves glabrous, coriaceous, dark glossy green above, paler and dull below, margins undulate, somewhat waxy, midrib prominent on both surfaces, yellow; petioles stout, rigid 8-15 mm long; lamina of juveniles 50-120 × 40-90 mm, broad-oblong to ovate, apex acute to acuminate, base cuneatelty narrowed; of adults 50-80 × 40-70 mm, elliptic-oblong to ovate-elliptic, apex acute to acuminate, base cuneately narrowed. Inflorescence a slender 10-18-flowered raceme 30-45 mm long, rhachis and pedicels, stout glabrous. Flowers 2.5-2.9 mm. diameter, greenish to greenish-yellow; males, females (and very rarely apparently perfect flowers) on very slender pedicles; calyx unequally deeply cleft, ovate, subacuminate; males with 2 large exserted anthers, ovary rudimentary or functional; female flower with 2 rudimentary anthers, ovary with large 2-lobed stigma. Drupe 10-18 mm long, oblong-ovoid, flesh dark pink, red or purple-black to maroon (flesh somewhat oily); endocarp 9.0-15 ×5.5-8.5 mm, dull, pale orange-yellow, elliptic to narrowly elliptic (and slightly compressed. Seed, 1(-2) per endocarp, elliptic, purple-brown.
Privet (Ligustrum lucidum) is commonly confused with Nestegis apetala from which it differs by its much larger paniculate inflorescences, white flowers and much smaller (3-6 mm long) fruits. Nestegis apetala could be confused with white maire (Nestegis lanceolata) which very occasionally grows with N. apetala in northern coastal forest. White maire differs by its much narrower (up to 30 mm wide) narrow- to ovate-lanceolate to narrow-elliptic leaves. whose midrib is adaxially deeply impressed. Canary Island olive (Picconia excelsa, Oleaceae) when vegetative or fruiting has a strong similarity to Nestegis apetala such that it is occasionally (and one assumes "accidentally") sold as this species. This tree is uncommon in New Zealand being most often seen in parks, street plantings, school grounds and plant collections in northern New Zealand. When flowering it is easily recognised as it has flowers with large prominent white or pink-white petals.
Main Flower Colour
Other Flower Colour
Easily grown from fresh seed. An attractive though frost-sensitive small tree that makes an excellent specimen tree for a large garden or street avenue. Once established Nestegis apetala is extremely tolerant of drought, strong winds and salt burn. It does well in large tubs and in raised gardens. Plants do best when planted in semi-shade in a position where they can grow into the light but are remarkably tolerant of being planted into full sun. Aside from its cold sensitivity this is an ideal tree for coastal situations and it deserves to be grown more widely than it is
2n = 46
Where To Buy
Can be purchased from Oratia Native Plant Nurseries (email@example.com).
Fact Sheet Prepared for NZPCN by: P.J. de Lange 9 February 2011. Description adapted from Allan (1961) and Webb & Simpson (2001).
References and further reading
Allan, H.H. 1961: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. I, Wellington, Government Printer.
Webb, C.J.; Simpson, M.J.A. 2001: Seeds of New Zealand Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons. Christchurch, Manuka Press.
This page last updated on 17 Jan 2013