Halocarpus kirkii


Halocarpus: From the Greek hals 'sea', 'salty' and karpos 'fruit'
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.

Current Conservation Status

2018 - At Risk - Relict

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 - Naturally Uncommon
2009 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon
2004 - Sparse


2012 - Sp
2009 - RF


Halocarpus kirkii (Parl.) Quinn



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

Gymnosperm Trees & Shrubs


Dacrydium kirkii Parl.


Endemic. New Zealand, North and Great Barrier Islands, from Te Paki (Radar and Unuwhao Bush) south to near Limestone Downs (south of Port Waikato) in the west and about the southern Kauaeranga Valley in the East


A northern species associated with kauri (Agathis australis (D.Don.) Lindl.) forest. In mature kauri forest it is most usually found in apparently even aged cohorts of 10 or less trees along ridge lines, in swampy hollows or at gully heads. This species appears to thrive on disturbance and it is at its most abundant on the margins of kauri and gumland vegetation sites originating from past fires, gum digging and/or kauri logging.


Dioecious forest tree up to 25 m tall, trunk up to 1.5 m d.b.h., bark greyish brown to dark brown, flaking in irregular to subcircular flakes, wood pale brownish red. Branches spreading, upper most often starkly erect, surfaces often marked with scars of old appressed leaves, and often retaining a few persistant, long dead, somewhat woody leaves. Foliage markedly heteroblastic, that of seedlings, juveniles and reversion shoots on adult trees 15-50 x 1-4 mm, yellow green to green, linear, apex obtuse to acute, mucronate, coriaceous; midribs distinct; petiole 1-3 mm long, often slightly twisted; adult foliage scale-like closely quadrifariously imbricating, 2-3 mm long, ovate-oblong to rhomboid, obtuse, faintly keeled, margin hyaline; appressed. Ultimate branchlets 1-2 mm diameter, subterete to terete, somewhat smooth. Male strobili up to 12 mm long, sessile, solitary and terminal; apiculus obtusely triangular. Branchlets bearing female cones terminal or subapical, cone scales 3-5, glaucous to green-grey, conspicuous, ovules solitary. Epimatium completely covering seed. Aril orange. Seeds 3-8 mm, lustrous black, ovoid-oblong, somewhat compressed, distinctly striate. Seeds taking two years to mature.

Similar Taxa

Halocarpus kirkii is completely allopatric from the other two species of the genus H. bidwillii and H. biformis (though on the Moehau range, both species are nearly sympatric). Its distinctive heteroblastic condition, preserved in even fully mature trees serves to distinguish it from the only superficially similar conifer with which it may grow Manoao colensoi. From hand and herbarium specimens of Halocarpus bidwillii and H. biformis, H. kirkii can be recognised by the much longer juvenile and reversion shoot foliage which is up to 50 mm long, and from H. bidwillii by the orange rather than white arils. The aril of H. biformis is pink to orange but the mature leaves of that species are prominently keeled whilst those of H. kirkii are only faintly so.


October - December

Flower Colours

No Flowers


December - November

Propagation Technique

Best from fresh seed but often fickle and even well established plants are prone to sudden collapse. Monoao is a beautiful tree whose mixed juvenile/adult foliage is particularly attractive. In good conditions it can be quite fast growing and usually forms a small bushy tree up to 10 m tall within about as many years.


Although it was undoubtedly logged when suitable trees were found, this species appears to have never been common, and it still has a highly fragmented, sporadic distribution in what are otherwise largely intact tracts of its preferred habitat kauri (Agathis australis) forest today. It is the opinion of conifer experts (though studies are needed to confirm this) that this species is naturally sparse because it requires frequent disturbance to regenerate. Thus climax type forested habitats are not suitable long term habitats for this species. True or not, it is fact that it is most commonly found flourishing (i.e., with all size classes in the appropriate numbers) in secondary regrowth forest abutting older, intact, kauri dominated remnants (e.g., Radar Bush, Hirakimata (Mt Hobson)).

Chromosome No.

2n = 22

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Arrilate seeds are dispersed by frugivory (Thorsen et al., 2009).

Fact Sheet Citation

Please cite as:  de Lange, P.J. (Year at time of Access): Halocarpus kirkii Fact Sheet (content continuously updated). New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. http://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora_details.aspx?ID=264  (Date website was queried)



Fact sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 3 February 2006. Description adapted from Allan (1961), Kirk (1889) Webb & Simpson (2001), fresh material and herbarium specimens.

References and further reading

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

Kirk, T. 1889: The Forest Flora of New Zealand. Wellington, Government Printer.

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

Webb, C.J.; Simpson, M.J.A. 2001: Seeds of New Zealand Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons. Christchurch, Manuka Press.

This page last updated on 14 Sep 2018