Pittosporum kirkii


Pittosporum: pitch seed
kirkii: after Thomas Kirk (18 January 1828 - 8 March 1898), a NZ botanist and lecturer in natural sciences and regarded as a leader of botanical enquiry in NZ for over three decades. One of his most significant publications was Forest flora of NZ (1889) but he also contributed over 130 papers to the Transactions and Proceedings of the NZ Institute and other journals.

Common Name(s)

Kirk’s kohuhu, thick-leaved kohukohu

Current Conservation Status

2012 - At Risk - Declining

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 - At Risk - Declining
2004 - Serious Decline


2012 - DP
2009 - DP


Pittosporum kirkii Hook.f.



Brief Description

Shrub often growing on other trees and bearing narrow leathery thick leaves that are widest towards the tip and with flattened hard capsules. Leaves 5-10cm long by 2-3cm wide. Flowers yellow, in cluster at tip of twigs. Fruit 2.5-4cm long, splitting into two showing the black seeds in yellow pith.

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




Endemic to the northern half or the North Island, from Karikari Peninsula south of the northern reaches of the Whanganui River and west to Taranaki Mounga (Mt Egmont National Park).


Usually epiphytic, rarely terrestrial in coastal to montane forest.


A small, gynodioecious, openly-branched shrub to 4 m tall with stout, purplish branches. Leaves are crowded towards the tips of the branch on 10 mm long stalks. The leaf blade is thick and fleshy, and broadens towards a rounded tip; leaves are 50–100 mm long by 20–30 mm wide. Flowers are either solitary or in clusters of up to four at the tips of branches, bright yellow and appear in November. Fruit are oval, woody capsules up to 40 mm long that split in half to reveal black seeds sitting in yellow sticky pulp, and appear in January.

Similar Taxa

Pittosporum cornifolium, another epiphyte, has leaves that are usually shorter, broader and much thinner, and the inside of the capsules are shiny and bright orange. Kirk’s kohuhu could also be confused with Kirks tree daisy (Brachyglottis kirkii var. kirkii) but that species has white daisy-like flowers and dandelion-like wind-borne seeds.


October to December

Flower Colours



January to May

Propagation Technique

Easy from fresh seed. Can also be grown from semi hardwood cuttings but slow to strike.


Forest clearance, possum browse.

Chromosome No.

2n = 24

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Fact Sheet Citation

Please cite as:  de Lange, P.J. (Year at time of Access): Pittosporum kirkii Fact Sheet (content continuously updated). New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. http://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora_details.aspx?ID=140 (Date website was queried)


Fact sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 30 August 2006. Description adapted from Cooper (1956).

References and further reading

Cooper, R.C. 1956: The Australian and New Zealand species of Pittosporum. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 43: 87-188

This page last updated on 28 Oct 2019