Pittosporum virgatum Kirk var. virgatum, Pittosporum matthewsii Petrie, Pittosporum virgatum var. matthewsii (Petrie) Allan, Pittosporum virgatum var. crataegifolia Kirk, Pittosporum virgatum var. serratum Kirk, Pittosporum virgatum var. sinuatum Kirk
Vascular – Native
Trees & Shrubs - Dicotyledons
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 = 24
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) – more information about this can be found on the NZTCS website. This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2012 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants.
Please note, threat classifications are often suggested by authors when publications fall between NZTCS assessment periods – an interim threat classification status has not been assessed by the NZTCS panel.
- Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2017 . 2018. 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. Department of Conservation. Source: NZTCS and licensed by DOC for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.
2018 | Threatened – Nationally Vulnerable
Previous conservation statuses
2017 | Threatened – Nationally Vulnerable | Qualifiers: PD, Sp
2012 | At Risk – Naturally Uncommon | Qualifiers: Sp
2009 | At Risk – Naturally Uncommon
2004 | Sparse
Slender small tree with whorls of branches and variably shaped leaves that are covered in rusty fuzz when young inhabiting inhabiting the northern North Island. Flowers pink to purple. Leaves wavy, edge smooth or often lobed. Capsule splitting into two to show the black sticky seeds.
Endemic. New Zealand, North and Great Barrier islands, from the Mangamuka and Herekino Ranges south and east to Great Barrier and the Coromandel Peninsula. Reaching its southern limit at about the Kauaerange Valley (there are unconfirmed reports of its occurring slightly further south of there).
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 occasionally 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.
Slender gynodioecious trees up to 8 m tall. Growth form initially narrowly columnar, becomign more spreading with age. Trunks slender grey brown, branches in distinct whorls in old specimens confined to the upper portion of the tree, bark brown, branchlets slender, pliant, brown at first covered with appressed rust-brown tomentum, soon glabrate. Petioles 1-7 x 0.5-1 mm, hairy. Leaves crowded toward branchlet ends, alternate; juvenile or lower leaves 10-40 x 1-7 mm, dark green or yellow-green, linear, entire or variously lobed, sometimes pinnate, both surfaces initially covered in rust-brown tomentum, soon glabrate; intermediate leaves 13-55 x 9-30 mm, lanceolate, narrowly linear, oblong or obovate, usually lobed or deeply divided both surfaces covered in rust-brown indumentum, soon glabrate; adult leaves 18-70 x 4-30 mm, oblong, oblanceolate, sometimes linear or linear-lanceolate, elliptic oblong, entire or sinuate, often lobed; margins flat to undulate. Flowers in 1-6-flowered, terminal fascicles, or solitary. Pedciels 5-9 mm, accrescent in fruit, covered in rust-brown indumentum, subtended by an approximate whorl of leaves, and 1-3 rust-tomentose caducous scales. Sepals 3.5-6.5 x 1-2.5 mm, oblong or linear-lanceolate, acute, rusty-brown tomentose. Petals 6-13 x 2-3 mm, linear-oblanceolate to linear-oblong, acute, fused in a tube for half of length, tips reflexed, dark red, purple, pink, white or golden yellow; stamens 4-7 mm, anthers sagittiform or oblong-ovate, ovary 2-4 x 1-2.5 mm, rusty-brown tomentose; style 1-5 mm, stigma capitate and obscurely 2-4-lobed. Capsules 11-16 x 10-13 mm, 2(-3)-valved, subglobose to subpyriform, apiculate, coriaceous. Mucilage bright yellow to orange-yellow. Seeds 1-16, dull black of irregular shape.
The combination of the narrowly columnar to openly virgate growth form, widely spaced whorls of slender branches, extremely variable juvenile, intermediate and adult foliage types (often present on the one mature tree), and rusty-brown tomentose branchlets, leaves, and capsules are unique to this species. It could not be confused with any other.
September - November
July - August (may be present all year round)
Easily grown from fresh seed which takes between 6 and 12 months to germinate. Can be struck from semi-hardwood cuttings. A beautiful species that is ideal as a specimen tree.
Aside from Great Barrier Island where this species is abundant it appears to have always been a sporadically occurring local species of northern kauri dominated forests. While its current distribution suggests that it is is biologically sparse, it is vulnerable to possum browsing and some populations were probably lost or reduced by kauri logging. Recent observation sin some parts of Northland that had been regarded as mainland stronghold suggest that this species is now seriously threatened. Pittosporum virgatum is likely to receive a higher threat listing in the near future.
pittosporum: Pitch seed
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
NZPCN Fact Sheet citation
Please cite as: de Lange, P.J. (Year at time of access): Pittosporum virgatum Fact Sheet (content continuously updated). New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. https://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora/species/pittosporum-virgatum/ (Date website was queried)