Acrothamnus colensoi


colensoi: Named after William Colenso (7 November 1811 - 10 February 1899) who was a Cornish Christian missionary to New Zealand, and also a printer, botanist, explorer and politician.

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Not Threatened

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 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Acrothamnus colensoi (Hook.f.) C.J.Quinn



Brief Description

Low-growing sprawling much-branched to weakly branched shrub (branches often subscandent). Leaves spreading, small bronze-green, pinkish green, glaucescent to dark red-brown with pale yellow margins, striped white beneath. Leaf margins finely hairy otherwise leaves glabrous. Flowers in small subterminal to terminal racemes, white. Fruit globose, glossy, white, pink, red crimson to almost black, fleshy.

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


Leucopogon colensoi Hook.f., Leucopogon suaveolens Hook.f., Cyathodes colensoi (Hook.f.) Hook.f.


Endemic. New Zealand: North and South Islands from about Kaingaroa Plain south.


Montane to alpine extending to lower altitudes in shrubland, tussock grassland and peat bogs in the southern part of its range


Dioecious (?gynodioecious) sprawling, prostrate, glaucescent pinkish green to red-brown shrubs forming much-branched to unevenly, sparingly-branched almost lianoid patches, 0.2-0.5 × 1.0-2.0 m. Branches spreading, ascending to erect, weakly ribbed to ± terete, grey-brown, unevenly pubescent but becoming glabrous with age. Leaves alternate, spreading, glabrous, bronze-green, pinkish green, glaucescent to dark red-brown with pale yellow margins, abaxially distinctly 3-5-nerved but veins not or scarcely raised above surface, veins greenish, interveinal grooves white; lamina 5-10 × 1-4 mm, narrow-oblong, oblong, concavo-convex; margins distinctly thickened, ± recurved, initially finely ciliolate, soon glabrous; apex obtuse, apiculate to mucronulate. Inflorescences near ends of branches, terminal, and/or in upper axils; racemose, 2-5-flowered, terminating in a bud-like rudiment. Flowers subtended by a bract and 2 keeled bracteoles; bract pinkish green to red, up to 2.5 mm long, glaucescent, broadly ovate, obtuse, ciliolate; bracteoles similar but smaller and distinctly keeled. Sepals up to 4 mm long, elliptic-oblong to ovate, obtuse, ciliolate, similar but smaller, imbricate with stomata only on the adaxial surface. Flowers seemingly unisexual, 6-8 mm long; corolla tube 4-5 mm long, hairy toward lobes; corolla-lobes 2.8-3.3 mm long, both surfaces copiously covered in hairs in distal half. Anthers emarginate, 0.4-0.6 mm long, apically attached by a short thin filament inserted near base of corolla tube sinus; the filaments ± exserted to almost hidden within tube, 0.3-0.5 mm long. Ovary 4-5-locular, spheriodal, glabrous, 0.5-1.0 × 0.5-0.8 mm wide; style straight, glabrous, 0.8-1.8 mm long; stigma 0.1 mm long usually immersed in tube, rarely partially exserted. Fruit, white, pink, red, dark crimson (rarely almost black), 4-5 mm diameter, globose. Endocarp 2.5-3.5 × 2.2-3.0 mm, pale brown, brown to orange-brown, broadly obovate, broadly ellipsoid to ovoid, indistinctly, longitudinally ridged 5×, surface somewhat granular.

Similar Taxa

Very superficially similar to Montitega, which differs by having narrow-oblong to narrow-elliptic; adaxially glaucous to dark brown-green, abaxially white, leaves whose margins are slightly thickened towards the base, and whose flowers are solitary rather than in racemes.


September - February

Flower Colours



November - June

Propagation Technique

Difficult. Should not be removed from the wild.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 146

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Fleshy berries by bird, reptile and invertebrate herbivory (Thorsen et al. 2009).

Where To Buy

Not commercially available.

Taxonomic notes

This species has also been treated as Acrothamnus suaveolens (Hook.f.) C.J. Quinn (also known as Leucopogon suaveolens Hook.f.). However, recent DNA based research backed up with sound morphological characters has recognised that A. colensoi is distinct from A. suaveolens, which is endemic to Borneo (Quinn et al. 2005). Acrothamnus colensoi also has a very distinctive chromosome number quite unlike that seen in other New Zealand members of the ericoid Styphelieae (Murray & de Lange 2013).


Fact Sheet prepared for the NZPCN by P.J. de Lange (19 November 2014). Description based on Allan (1961), Quinn et al (2005), Webb & Simpson (2001) and observations made from fresh and dried specimens

References and further reading

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

Murray, B.G.; de Lange, P.J. 2013: Contributions to a chromosome atlas of the New Zealand flora – 40. Miscellaneous counts for 36 families. New Zealand Journal of Botany 51: 31–60.

 Quinn, C. J.; Brown, E. A.; Heslewood, M. M.; Crayn, D. M. 2005: Generic concepts in Styphelieae (Ericaceae): the Cyathodes group. Australian Systematic Botany 18: 439-454.

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 19 Nov 2014