Christopher Taylor Bird Nature Wildlife Mammal Photography
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Myoporum Photo @
Location: Playa del Rey (Ballona Creek), CA
GPS: 34.0N, -118.4W, elev=0' MAP
Date: April 1, 2009
ID : 1991 [3888 x 2592]

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The Ngaio or Mousehole tree (Myoporum laetum) is a tree in the family Scrophulariaceae native to New Zealand.


It is evergreen, grows to a height of 10 metres, and bears white or near white blossoms in late winter to mid spring. It is a fast growing shrub or small tree (up to 10M) which appear dome shaped at first but as it gets older distorts as branches break off. The bark has brownish furrowed look.

Juvenile Ngaio.

The leaves contain small oil glands which appear as small yellow/white speckles which makes the leaf quite distinguishable from other shrubs. Flowers are bisexual and borne on axillary cymes, corolla 5 lobed 1.5-2cm across, ovary superior with 2 locules, fruit is a bright red drupe 6-9mm long. Ngaio grows very well in coastal areas of New Zealand and towards lowland forest.


The M?ori would rub the leaves over their skin to repel mosquitoes and sandflies


The leaves of this tree contain a liver toxin Ngaione which can cause sickness and or death in stock such as cattle, sheep and pigs.



The seed is 5-8mm in size with a light brown slightly orange colour. Stratification for 8 weeks is the recommended pre-germination seed treatment. Seeds can take a several months to germinate, but by reducing the thickness of the seeds outer coat by slightly nicking with a knife or using sandpaper, germination times can be reduced.


Propagation can be accomplished with cuttings and using a rooting hormone. Roots will start to form anywhere from 5-9 weeks.

M?ori legend See also: Man in the Moon

According to M?ori legend, a Ngaio tree can be seen on the moon:

The man in the moon becomes, in M?ori legend, a woman, one Rona by name. This lady, it seems, once had occasion to go by night for water to a stream. In her hand she carried an empty calabash. Stumbling in the dark over stones and the roots of trees she hurt her shoeless feet and began to abuse the moon, then hidden behind clouds, hurling at it some such epithet as "You old tattooed face, there!" But the moon-goddess heard, and reaching down caught up the insulting Rona, calabash and all, into the sky. In vain the frightened woman clutched, as she rose, the tops of a ngaio-tree. The roots gave way, and Rona with her calabash and her tree are placed in the front of the moon for ever, an awful warning to all who are tempted to mock at divinities in their haste.

From : The Long White Cloud by William Pember Reeves (1899)

Myoporum laetum is considered an invasive exotic species by the California Exotic Pest Plant Council.

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