Panax ferox 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 = 48
Current conservation status
The threat classification 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. 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. Please note, threat classifications are often suggested by authors when publications fall between NZTCS assessment periods – a suggested threat classification status has not been assessed by the NZTCS panel.
2017 | At Risk – Naturally Uncommon | Qualifiers: PD, Sp
Previous conservation statuses
2012 | At Risk – Naturally Uncommon | Qualifiers: PD, Sp
2009 | At Risk – Naturally Uncommon | Qualifiers: CD, RF
2004 | Sparse
Small tree with a striking juvenile form consisting of down pointing roundish long narrow very tough leaves that have irregular blunt bumps along the edge which grows into a bushy small tree bearing long narrow leathery leaves that have a few teeth on the margin towards the tip and produces 8-9mm wide purple fruit.
Endemic. North and South Islands. In the North rather patchy, known from Ahipara, Woodhill Forest (South Kaipara), the Moawhango and southern Rimutaka Range. In the S. Island more widespread but easterly from the Marlborough Sounds to Southland.
Coastal to subalpine (10-800 m a.s.l.) on consolidated sand dunes (dune forest), in grey scrub overlying pumice, on recent alluvial (coarse gravels), limestone outcrops, boulder fall, cliff faces, talus slopes and scarps. Also found as a sparse component of seasonally drought-prone but otherwise cold and wet alluvial forests. This species prefers drier habitats and conditions than P. crassifolius (Sol. ex A.Cunn.) C.Koch.
Wetland plant indicator status rating
Information derived from the revised national wetland plant list prepared to assist councils in delineating and monitoring wetlands (Clarkson et al., 2021 Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research Contract Report LC3975 for Hawke’s Bay Regional Council). The national plant list categorises plants by the extent to which they are found in wetlands and not ‘drylands’. The indicator status ratings are OBL (obligate wetland), FACW (facultative wetland), FAC (facultative), FACU (facultative upland), and UPL (obligate upland).
UPL: Obligate Upland
Rarely is a hydrophyte, almost always in uplands (non-wetlands).
Gynodioecious small tree up to 8 m tall. Trunk slender, longitudinally deeply grooved and ridged, bark fawn, mottled grey-white, often finely encrusted with lichens. Seedling leaves patent, 15-40 x 3-6 mm, dark or light chocolate brown to almost black, linear-lanceolate, margins deeply lobed with hooked ends; sapling and unbranched juvenile leaves strongly deflexed, 100-500 x 6-15 mm, light brown mottled with fawn and white near lobes or dark chocolate brown, mottled with fawn and white near lobes, coriaceous, very thick and rigid, margins set with closely-spaced to more or less distant, broadly and broad-based, somewhat raised, rounded, prominently and sharply hooked lobes; midrib raised, 2 mm wide, leaf apex terminating in 2-6 crowded, hooked lobes; leaves at branching stage similar but shorter, sub- to ascending, sometimes more deeply and sharply lobed before passing into adult foliage. Adult leaves 50-150 x 10-20 mm, dark or light chocolate brown, oblong to linear-obovate or broadly lanceolate, narrowing to a stout petiole 10-20 mm long; apex obtuse or mucronate-apiculate, retuse, bluntly serrate to entire, veins evident above. Umbels terminal, compound, staminate and perfect umbels with 5-12 rays, 30-50 mm long; flowers more or less racemosely distributed, trending to umbellules in perfect flowers; pistillate with rays 10-30 mm long, umbellules 2-5-flowered. Stamens 4-5, ovary 5-loculed, 5-ovuled; style branches 5, fused, sometimes free at tips. Fruit 8-9 mm diameter, brown or purple-brown, ovoid, fleshy.
Pseudopanax crassifolius is similar but the sapling and subadult leaves are green to dark green, usually with smaller, narrow-based, straight teeth, and the adult has much broader, greener, elliptic-cuneate, lanceolate to linear-obovate, acute or obtuse, entire to sinuate or rarely coarsely serrated leaves. P. crassifolius is a much larger tree reaching up to 20 m in good conditions.
November - April
December - June
Easily grown from fresh seed and can be struck from semi-hardwood cuttings - though necessarily of adult foliage. A very tough plant that favours highly fertile but dry soils in full sun to dappled light. It can tolerate poor fertility soils as well and is drought tolerant. Juvenile foliage is exceptional and so it is well known from cultivation.
Probably warrants a higher threat listing. P. ferox is biologically sparse but it is also threatened by possum, deer and goat browse, because juvenile plants command high prices in the nursery trade accessible populations have and continue to be plundered for seedlings and ripe fruit. Hybridisation with P. lessonii (DC.) K.Koch has been reported from several northern populations, if substantiated, the long-term effect hybridism may have on the viability of P. ferox at these sites has yet to be evaluated. The most secure populations seem to be the one in the southern North Island and a few island populations in the Marlborough Sounds and those in the more remote parts of the south-eastern South Island.
pseudopanax: False cure
ferox: From the Latin ferox ‘fierce’, usually referring to very spiny plants
Fact sheet prepared by P.J. de Lange for NZPCN (1 June 2013)
NZPCN Fact Sheet citation
Please cite as: de Lange, P.J. (Year at time of access): Pseudopanax ferox Fact Sheet (content continuously updated). New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. https://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora/species/pseudopanax-ferox/ (Date website was queried)