Myoporum laetum G.Forst. var. laetum, Myoporum laetum var. decumbens G.Simpson
Vascular – Native
Dicotyledonous Trees & Shrubs
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.
2n = 108
Current conservation status
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2017 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2012 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: By Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, John W. Barkla, Shannel P. Courtney, Paul D. Champion, Leon R. Perrie, Sarah M. Beadel, Kerry A. Ford, Ilse Breitwieser, Ines Schönberger, Rowan Hindmarsh-Walls, Peter B. Heenan and Kate Ladley.
2012 | Not Threatened
Previous conservation statuses
2009 | Not Threatened
2004 | Not Threatened
Spreading tree bearing glossy yellow-green to dark green heavily spotted oval leaves usually occurring not far from coast. New growth very glossy, dark and sticky. Flowers white with purple spots, at base of leaves. Fruit pink, on a stalk.
Endemic. Three Kings, North and South Islands. Also on the Chatham Islands where scarce and probably naturalised.
Coastal to lowland forest, sometimes well inland (in Hawkes Bay, Rangataiki and Wairarapa). Often uncommon over large parts of its range.
Decumbent shrub, shrub, or small tree up to 10 m tall and in decumbent forms 2-4 m across. Trunk to 0.3 m diam. Bark light grey to brown, thick and corky, firm, persistent, rough and furrowed. Branches stout, spreading. Leaf buds dark brown, purple-black to almost black, very sticky. Petioles flattened up to 300 mm long. Leaves somewhat fleshy, yellow-green to green, conspicuously white to yellow gland-spotted, (40-)100-120 x (10-)30-40 mm, lanceolate, oblong-lanceolate, oblong to obovate, acute to acuminate, margins crenulate-serrulate in upper half to third, margins sinuate to plain. Flowers in 2-6-flowered axillary cymes. Peduncles up to 15 mm long. Calyx-teeth 2 mm, narrow-lanceolate, acuminate. Corolla campanulate, white, purple-spotted, 5-lobed, lobes hairy on upper surface. Stamens 4. Fruit a narrow-ovoid drupe, 6-9 mm long, white or pale to dark reddish-purple.
Ngaio could be confused with Tasmanian boobialla (M. insulare) but is distinct by its serrated gland-spotted leaves. We include var. decumbens G. Simpson within M. laetum, regarding it as merely one extreme of a continuous range of variation present in the species. Aside from leaf shape and size there are no other distinguishing characters. Another species, M. kermadecense, endemic to the Kermadec Islands, is rarely cultivated in New Zealand, for distinctions see under that species.
October - January
December - June
Easily grown from fresh seed and semi-hardwood cuttings
Not threatened. However, in some parts of the country such as urban Auckland, Wellington and along portions of the Kaikoura coast hybrid swams involving Tasmanian boobialla (Myoporum insulare sens. lat.) are common. The widespread planting of Tasmanian boobialla, or hybrids poses a risk to ngaio in places where it is not common.
myoporum: Shut pore
Where To Buy
Commonly cultivated and sold by many garden centres. However, some nursery stock offered as ngaio is either Tasmanian boobialla or hybrids involvying that entity (see features).
The leaves contain ngaione which has antibacterial properties but is also toxic to livestock, causing liver damage (Brooker et al., 1998). Click on this link for more information about Poisonous native plants.
Fact Sheet prepared for the NZPCN by: P.J. de Lange (22 April 2011). Description based on Allan (1961)
References and further reading
Allan, H.H. 1961: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. I. Wellington, Government Printer.
Brooker, S. G., Cambie, R. C. and R. C. Cooper (1998). New Zealand Medicinal Plants. Reed: Auckland.
Please cite as: de Lange, P.J. (Year at time of access): Myoporum laetum Fact Sheet (content continuously updated). New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. https://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora/species/myoporum-laetum/ (Date website was queried)