Coprosma is a genus of approximately 90 species of vascular plant found throughout the Pacific and Australasia. They are shrubs or small trees and have opposite leaves. The leaves of most species have domatia (pits) that open on the lower leaf surface.
Coprosma is in the Rubiaceae family and is therefore a relative of coffee. New Zealand is the distribution centre for this genus with 58 endemic species out of a total of 90 species worldwide. Hawai’i has approximately 20 species and other species are found in Australia, Borneo, Java, New Guinea and islands of the Pacific Ocean.
Coprosma species have small unisexual flowers that are borne on different plants (dioecious) and they have a fleshy fruit (drupe). The genus name Coprosma means smelling like dung. This refers to the unpleasant smell released when the leaves of several species are crushed. The fruit, however, are edible and provide a valuable food source to birds. Historically, the fruit of the larger species were eaten by Maori children. Photo above of Coprosma rugosa by Jeremy Rolfe. Coprosma grandifolia (left) and Coprosma rigida (right). Photos by Jeremy Rolfe.
For more information about coprosma see*:
- Coprosma (Wikipedia)
- Coprosma (Flora of New Zealand)
- Rubiaceae (University of Auckland website)
- Coprosma waima - a new species from northern New Zealand by Tony Druce (1989). NZ Journal of Botany, Vol. 27: 119-128
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