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Tree Botanics

Karaka Previous

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Other Names: (Corynocarpus laevigatus)

Member of the Corynocarpaceae family the karaka is a medium-sized, round-headed tree reaching heights of up to 16m tall with stout branches, a bushy crown & dense foliage. It is commonly distributed in all regions of the North Island, abundant in coastal & lowland forests, extending South as far as Banks Peninsula on the east coast & south of Greymouth on the west coast. Its trunk can reach diameter of up to 60cm, and the grey bark is smooth and fluid to the touch. The thick leathery leaves are 10 - 15cm long X 5 - 7cm wide, dark green, thick & glossy with shining upper karaka-leaves-flowers-atx-tree-botanicssurfaces/entire margins. Leaves appear alternate. The small green flowers appear between August - November, approximately 5mm in diameter with 5 petals borne on stiff panicles (a branched cluster of flowers in which the branches are racemes- an inflorescence having stalked flowers arranged singly along an elongated unbranched axis, as in the lily of the valley) up to 20cm long. The flowers are followed by large,karaka-fruit-arbortechnix-tree-species orange succulent fruits 2.5 - 4cm long presenting as drupes (a fleshy fruit, such as a peach, plum, or cherry, usually having a single hard stone that encloses a seed. Also called stone fruit.) in large clusters & ripening from January - April, from green through yellow to orange. Before European colonisation the karaka was of great importance to the Maori as an abundant food source. The flesh of the fruit was eaten raw but the kernels required preparation before consumption being bitter & unpalatable but mainly to remove all trace of poison/toxicity. They were placed in large umu (ovens) & steam-baked for several hours, they could then be dried and stored for future use.