Pittosporum ellipticum


Pittosporum: pitch seed
ellipticum: elliptic

Current Conservation Status

2012 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon

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 - Naturally Uncommon
2004 - Sparse


2012 - Sp


Pittosporum ellipticum Kirk



Brief Description

Small tree with fuzzy brownish new growth and oval leaves that are paler underneath and with hard capsules that split into two to show the black sticky seed inhabiting the upper North Island. Leaves 5-10cm long, often with some brown fuzz underneath. Capsules also brown fuzzy.

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


Pittosporum ellipticum Kirk subsp. ellipticum, Pittosporum ellipticum var. decorum Cheeseman, Pittosporum ellipticum subsp. ovatum Kirk, Pittosporum ellipticum var. ovatum (Kirk) Kirk


Endemic. North Island from Te Paki to Mt Pirongia in the west and about the Karangahake and Waioeka Gorges in the East.


Most usually associated with kauri (Agathis australis) forest, often on ridge lines, slips scars or in secondary regrowth within cut over kauri forest. Outside this forest type it is often found in association with tanekaha (Phyllocladus trichomanoides), towai (Weinmannia silvicola) or kamahi (Weinmannia racemosa). In all situations it prefers relatively open vegetation, where it typically forms apparently evenly-aged cohorts.


Small gynodioecious tree up to 8 m tall but usually less. Trunk and branches dark brown, young branchlets clad in fine, appressed rust-coloured tomentum. Leaves alternate, crowded at tips of branches. Petioles 4-15 x 1.5-2 mm, densely invested in appressed, rust-coloured tomentum. Lamina 30-97 x 15-50 mm, yellow-green to dark green above, pale red-green or reddish-yellow beneath, elliptic-oblong, ovate or obovate, apex and base acute or obtuse, margin entire; emergent and expanding leaves densely invested in appressed, rust-coloured tomentum, soon becoming glabrate above and sparsely tometnose to glabrate beneath, coriaceous. Flowers in terminal 2-6-flowered fascicles; pedicels 5-14 mm, accrescent in fruit, rusty orange to rust-grey tomentose, subtended by several caducous, rusty-tomentose 1-2 mm long bud scales. Sepals linear, acuminate, 8-11 x 2-2.7 mm, rusty-tomentose, ciliate; petals 14-19.5 x 3-3.5 mm, oblanceolate-linear, subacute, recuvred at tips, reddish-brown, chocolate or dark golden yellow; stamens 7-11 mm, anthers 1-3 mm. Ovary 2.5-7.5 x 1.5-4.5 mm, invested in rust-coloured hairs, style 1.5-6.5 mm long, stigma capitate or tuncate. Capsules, woody, subglobose, 3 or 2-valved, 15-20 x 13-17 mm, covered in rust-borwn to rust-grey tomentum. Mucilage yellow-red to orange. Seeds 25-36 (with many aborted), reddish-back, somewhat irregular in outline.

Similar Taxa

Most similar to Pittosporum huttonianum from which it is differs by the rust-coloured (rather than grey to grey-white) tomentum on the emergent leaves and leaf undersides.


July - October

Flower Colours

Brown,Red / Pink


August - January (though fruit is long persistent and may be seen year round)

Propagation Technique

Difficult. Seed may take up to five years to germinate and germination is often poor. Best grown from semi-hardwood cuttings, though even these can be hard to strike. Although an attractive small tree it is often hard to maintain in cultivation, and is prone to sudden collapse in times of stress. This is a shame because the red, orange and yellow-flowered forms are very beautiful.


Not directly threatened though it is generally very uncommon throughout its range, and where found it is often known from one or two trees. Howevere, there are exceptions, for example the species is common along the ridge lines of Mt Manaia, Bream Head and in the Waitakere Ranges (especially near Anawhata and Destruction Gully).

Chromosome No.

2n = 24

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Taxonomic Notes

In its typical form this is a well marked and very distinctive species. However around the Karangahake Gorge and south of there to the Waioeka Gorge plants referrable to Cheeseman's Pittosporum ellipticum var. decorum occur. These are rather intermediate with P. huttonianum . Critical study using molecular markers is needed to resolve this problem.



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 12 Dec 2014