Pisonia brunoniana

Common Name(s)


Current Conservation Status

2012 - 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

2009 - At Risk - Relict
2004 - Sparse


2012 - TO
2009 - TO


Pisonia brunoniana Endl.



Brief Description

Small tree with large oval leaves and long extremely sticky fruit inhabiting northern offshore islands and coastal forests. Leaves 10-50cm long. Flowers white, in wide-angled clusters. Fruit green ripening to almost black, 2.5-4cm long, stick to birds.

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


Pisonia sinclairii Hook.f. and Heimerliodendron brunonianum (Endl.)


Indigenous. Kermadecs (Raoul), Three Kings, North Island (mainly offshore islands) but known on the mainland in scattered locations from the Whangape Harbour to Mangawhai. Historical records show it was around Auckland, on the Coromandel Peninsula and at East Cape.


Coastal forest. Now mainly found on rodent-free offshore islands where it can be a very important component of the understorey of mixed-broadleaf forest.


Spreading, usually multi-trunked and freely coppicing tree rarely exceeding 8 x 2 m in height. Main trunk up to 800 mm dbh, clad in firm, grey-brown to green-brown bark, usually with numerous dormant epicormic buds present. Branches at first erect, then spreading, rather brittle. Leaves opposite or in whorls. Petioles up to 40 mm, stout, fleshy, red-green to green; lamina 100-600 x 50-200 mm, green, yellow-green, or dark-green suffused with red (new growth often pink), glabrous, oblong to obovate-oblong, obtuse, margins entire, sinuate, sometimes lobed. Inflorescence a many-flowered, terminal, paniculate cyme with subtending, deciduous, leaf-like bracts. Pedicels finely covered in red-brown pubescence, stout, fleshy up to 20 mm long. Flowers usually monoecious, up to 10 mm long, calyx funnelform, 5-lobed, usually plicately folded, perianth greenish-white to white, pubescent to glabrescent. Stamens 6-8, anthers scarcely exserted. Fruit a 5-ribbed, hardened, narrowly elliptic to elliptic perianth 25-40 mm long; ribs exuding an extremely viscid exudates. Achene usually narrowly oblong to oblong-elliptic usually 5-angled, 16-20 mm long, dark red-brown to brown.

Similar Taxa



August - December

Flower Colours



August - July

Propagation Technique

Easy from fresh seed, tolerant of a wide range of soils types and moisture levels. In suitable conditions seedlings often appear under planted trees. Rather cold sensitive and best grown in the warmer northern parts of NZ. It usually grows in sheltered coastal forest as an understorey plant it is quite tolerant of exposed sunny conditions, and can make an interesting specimen tree. The large leaves and quick growth have made it quite popular with people looking for a tropical effect. The pale cream flowers are pleasantly and strongly scented at night. The sticky fruits can be a problem, and sometimes small birds get caught in them. It is best to remove these if you want to avoid the occasional bird capture. A variegated form of unknown origin is also available.


Within the mainland part of its range, Parapara is virtually extinct. Its large leaves are especially palatable to browsing animals such as possums, goats and other feral livestock. However the main threat to accessible mainland populations is the irresponsible behaviour of ignorant people who have cut down trees because of their ability to trap small passerines. On rodent-free offshore islands it is common but has declined on those supporting these vermin. As more northerly islands are being made rodent-free parapara is making a spectacular come back.

Chromosome No.

2n = 136

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Cultural Use/Importance

Recently there has been a campaign initiated by members of various organisations to have Parapara banned from sale and cultivation. This is on the grounds that the tree kills numerous birds and that it is not native to New Zealand. Scientific peer-reviewed studies and literature shows that bird captures do happen but hardly at the exaggerated levels promoted by these individuals. Parapara is also indigenous to New Zealand. The species is at risk throughout its natural world-wide range because of vandalism by people obsessed with its inflated bird-killer reputation. NZPCN would suggest that cultivation is a matter of informed decision. Nurseries stocking this plant should clearly label specimens with the warning that the fruits may catch small birds and insects.


Fact Sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 1 September 2004. Description modified from Allan (1961) supplemented with observations made from herbarium and fresh specimens.

References and further reading

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

This page last updated on 28 Jan 2015