Kawakawa

Kawakawa (Macropiper excelsum) is a common plant in most coastal lowland parts of New Zealand, but in Abel Tasman is restricted to warm places because the soil is too infertile.

Its common name is pepper tree, and it is a member of the pepper family. A related pacific species is M. methysticum, the roots of which are used to make kava, a ceremonial calming drink. Kawakawa lacks the appropriate chemistry but the leaves are aromatic and are widely used medicinally, as a tonic, pain killer and anti-infection agent, as well as an insecticide and having ceremonial roles at birth and death. Most leaves have holes in them, caused by a native caterpillar. The ripe fruit is an orange spike and is favoured by kererū in summer.

 

Kawakawa

Kawakawa—photo Geoff Button