Vitex lucens


Vitex: To wieve or tie up, chaste
lucens: shining

Common Name(s)


Current Conservation Status

2012 - Not Threatened

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Vitex lucens Kirk



Brief Description

Large tree with thin pale flaky bark over an uneven knobbly trunk bearing dark green leaves made of five wrinkled leaflets radiating from the top of a stalk, largest leaflet in the middle, flowers pink, bell-shaped with projecting pale filaments, fruit 2cm wide and red.

Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class

Dicotyledonous Trees & Shrubs


Vitex littoralis A.Cunn.


Endemic. New Zealand: Three Kings Islands and North Island from Te Paki to Taranaki, Mahia Peninsula and the northern Hawkes Bay. Puriri is, as a rule, scarce south of about Opotiki and Kawhia.


In the northern part of its range Puriri is a common co-dominant with Taraire (Beilschmiedia tarairi) and karaka (Corynocarpus laevigatus) especially on rich fertile soils derived from basaltic and basaltic-andesitic igneous rocks. South of the northern Bay of Plenty and Raglan Harbours it is rarely found inland and is more commonly found in coastal forest where it co-habits with pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) and karaka. Puriri is also an important forest tree on many of the smaller islands of the Hauraki Gulf, where it may at times be the canopy dominant.


Tree up to c. 20 m. tall with a broad spreading canopy; trunk up to c.1·5 m. diamete; bark grey-brown, firm, flaking in small irregular-shaped shards. Branches stout, spreading; branchlets 4-angled, green. Leaves opposite, glabrous, coriaceous, compound, on petioles up to 110 mm long; Leaflets 3-4-5, somewhat undulose, adaxially dark green, glossy, abaxially lighter green, mat; basal one or pair of leaflets usually much smaller than the terminal 3, digitate; lamina of 3 main leaflets 50-140 × 30-60 mm; elliptic-oblong to obovate, abruptly acute to subacuminate, margin entire. Domatia (pit-type) present at axils of costa and main veins. Inflorescence in axillary, dichotomous, (4)-10-15-flowered panicles. Calyx cupular, minutely 5-toothed; corolla dull red, pink or white, pubescent, 2-lipped, c.25-35 mm long. Upper lip entire or bifid, lower deflexed, 3-lobed. Style slender, bifid, c.25 mm long. Drupe 20-26 mm diameter subglobose, bright red, pink or white.

Similar Taxa



May - October

Flower Colours

Red / Pink,White


January - October

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from seed. Seed can be slow to germinate, although germination can be hastened by scarifying the seed coat. Seedlings and saplings are frost tender and require a sheltered, warm, semi-shaded site (at least initially to thrive). Puriri prefers a rich, deep, fertile soil but is surprisingly tolerant of a range of conditions including drought (once established). This is a spectacular specimen tree that deserves to be more widely cultivated than it is. It makes an excellent street/avenue or park tree, and the flowers attract birds (especially tui and bellbird) and the fruits kereru


Not Threatened. However, in some parts of Northland puriri "die-back" has been observed (the exact causes of which are much debated). Puriri is at times heavily browsed by possums, to such an extent that trees can die.

Chromosome No.

2n = 64

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Can be purchased from Oratia Native Plant Nurseries (info@oratianatives.co.nz).


Factsheet prepare for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 9 February 2011. Description adapted from Allan (1961).

References and further reading

Allan, H.H. 1961: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. I, Wellington, Government Printer.

This page last updated on 20 Jan 2014