Coprosma obconica


Coprosma: from the Greek kopros 'dung' and osme 'smell', referring to the foul smell of the species, literally 'dung smell'
obconica: Inverted cone

Common Name(s)


Current Conservation Status

2018 - Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable

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

2012 - At Risk - Declining
2009 - At Risk - Declining
2004 - Gradual Decline


2012 - RR
2009 - RRF


Coprosma obconica Kirk



Brief Description

Rare bushy small-leaved wide-angled shrub bearing white flattened fruit and with mottled brown or green juvenile leaves (also often present at the base of adult trees). Adult leaves in pairs, to 12mm long, oval, glossy, margins thickened and down-curved, tip blunt with a small sharp point.

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


Coprosma obconica Kirk subsp. obconica


Endemic. North Island: scattered populations near Taihape and one near Masterton. South Island: From DUrville Island and north west Nelson south to Southland and Otago, being apparently absent only from Westland and Stewart Island.


Occupying a wide range of habitats, from estuarine shrublands, braided river bars, lowland podocarp forest to montane marble/limestone/dolomite karstfield, and very occasionally ultramafic boulderfields. The species is a basicole preferring to grow on base-rich substrates (limestone, marble, calcareous mudstone, recent alluvium) but typically in those habitats prone to physiological (e.g., ultramafic, dolomite, or estuarine) or climatic (e.g., drought prone, frost hollows, or with a seasonally high water table) stress.


Suberect to erect, heaily branched,divaricating shrub 2-3.5 x 0.8-1 m. Bark of mature twigs brown or pale silver-grey, papery, inner bark green. Adult leaves of one type only, broadly elliptic to oblancelate, 3.5-12 x 1.5-2.5 (-3.5) mm, light greyish green, sometimes mottled yellow. Male and female plants on separate plants. Drupes (fruits) greenish white or translucent white, variously striped or blotched dark violet-purple when fresh. Pyrenes (Seeds) 3 x 2.2. mm, 2.5 mm deep, pale grey or white, clog-shaped. For a full description see de Lange & Gardner (2002, New Zealand Journal of Botany 40 (1): 25-38) where this species is treated as C. obconica subsp. obconica.

Similar Taxa

Coprosma distantia which differs from C. obconica by its prostrate, trailing habit, uniformly cream to pale lemon-coloured fruits, larger, scarcely "notched" pyrenes (seeds) and nrDNA ITS and ETS sequence. Both C. obconica and C. distantia form a species pair, which are vegetatively distinguished from all other New Zealand Coprosma species by their leaf tips, which possess a nipple-like "bull nose" apical leaf prolongation.


April to August


January to September

Propagation Technique

Moderately easy from semi-hardwood or hardwood cuttings. Seed germinates easily but plants are very slow growing.


Competition from weeds, and the loss of mainly lowland Podocarp forest habitat are the main active threats. However, ongoing dolomite mining at Mt Burnett seriously threatens one of the largest populations known. Although many populations are small, the species is remarkably resilient if sites are given minimal management, e.g., hand pulling of weeds.

Chromosome No.

2n = 44

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Fleshy drupes are dispersed by frugivory (Thorsen et al., 2009).

Where To Buy

Coprosma obconica is grown by a few specialist nurseries, and several botanic gardens. Plants are very slow growing, and without male and female plants fruit is rarely set.


References and further reading

Thorsen, M. J.; Dickinson, K. J. M.; Seddon, P. J. 2009. Seed dispersal systems in the New Zealand flora. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 11: 285-309

This page last updated on 23 Jun 2014