Melicytus crassifolius


Melicytus: From the Greek meli (honey) and kytos (hollow container), referring to the staminal nectaries of the flowers. Literally "honey-cave"
crassifolius: From the Latin crassus' thick and folius 'leaf'

Common Name(s)

Thick-leaved mahoe

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 - Sparse


Melicytus crassifolius (Hook.f.) F.Muell.



Brief Description

Rigid dense small hard shrub with many thick tapering grey speckled branches bearing clusters of upward-pointing small dark green oval leaves mainly inhabiting coastal areas. Leaves thick, variable, about 1-2cm long, widest near the middle. Flowers inconspicuous, bell-shaped, underneath branches. Fruit white, usually with purple patches.

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


Hymenanthera crassifolia Hook.f.


Endemic. North and South Islands. In the North present from Cape Turnagain and Paekakariki south to Cape Palliser and Te Rawhiti, also on the smaller near shore islands as well as Kapiti and Mana Islands. In the S. Island in the Marlborough Sounds east and south to about Kaikoura (exact limits unclear).


Coastal to lowland (0-300 m a.s.l.). Usually coastal in open grey scrub, on talus and alluvial terraces, cobble beaches, cliff faces, and in coarse stable sand dunes (especially swales). Inland it may be found in open grassland, amongst kanuka stands (Kunzea ericoides (A.Rich.) Joy Thomps s.l.) and along river flats.


Dioecious, stout, heavily branched, very bushy and leafy, spreading shrub up to 2 x 2 m (usually much less). Trunk 1-4 arising from ground, up to 100 mm d.b.h., bark orange-green to green, grey to grey-white in exposed situations, finely lenticellate. Branches numerous at first erect to suberect, soon spreading often decurved and touching the ground; branchlets more or less intertwinned, filiramulate, weakly divaricate; puberulent becoming glabrous, stout, flexuous tapering toward apex, not spinous at tips. Petioles 2-4 mm long, yellow-green to green, fleshy to fleshy-coriaceous. Leaves solitary on young rapidly growing branchlets, otherwise in dense fascicles, often on short shorts; lamina 5-20 x 3-70 mm, dark green, narrowly obovate-oblong, spathulate to elliptic, apex obtuse or retuse, cuneately narrowed to base; margins more or less revolute, usually entire very rarely with 1-2 assymetric lobes, somewhat thicker than the rest of lamina. Flowers c.3 mm diameter, solitary or in 2-3-flowered fascicles; yellow-green. Pedicels bracteate, curved to recurved, rarely straight 1.5-2 mm long. Sepals green, suborbicular, with fimbriate margins; petals 5, c. 3 mm long, pale green to lemon-yellow, narrow-oblong, recurving form apex to base. Anthers 5, subsessile, fused at base and joined by a fine 5-partite membrane, divisions more or less triangular; nectariferous scales broad. Style bifid. Fruit a berry 3.5 mm, fleshy white or greenish-white, often with a faint glaucous bloom, broadly cylindric to subglobose; seeds (1-)2, ovate to ovate-elliptic.

Similar Taxa

This is part of a species complex. The description here is of plants found in lowland and coastal portions of the southern North Island island and coastal eastern Marlborough, which encompasses the type. In the broad sense it is most likely to be confused with M. obovatus from which it can be distinguished by its narrower leaves, lower stature and more intertwinned and spreading branches and usually lemon-yellow flowers. Along the Wellington coastline and eastern Marlborough Sounds the form of M. obovatus found there also differs from M. crassifolius by its perfect rather than dioecious flowering habit.


August - January

Flower Colours



October - May

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from fresh seed and can be grown from semi-hardwood cuttings. An attractive and very hardy shrub ideal for windy situations. Very drought tolerant once established. Does best in open, sunny, free draining soils.


Heavily browsed by cattle, horses, sheep, possums, rabbits and hares wherever accessible. Otherwise reasonably common though often sparsely distributed over large parts of its range. Recruitment is often lacking in populations accessible to browsing animals.

Chromosome No.

2n = 64

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Notes on taxonomy

All the small-leaved Melicytus are the subject of an ongoing taxonomic revision. M. crassifolius includes several potentially unnamed species, particularly in the South Island. Once described M. crassifolius will probably have an even more restricted distribution.


This page last updated on 12 Dec 2014