Kawakawa, Macropiper excelsum, is a small tree of which the subspecies M. excelsum subsp. excelsum is endemic to New Zealand; the subspecies M. excelsum subsp. psittacorum is found on Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island and the Kermadec Islands.
It is found throughout the North Island
, and as far south as Okarito
(43.20 °S) on the West Coast
and Banks Peninsula
(43.5 °S) on the east coast of the South Island
. The leaves are often covered with insect holes. The images depict the variety majus
which has larger and more glossy leaves than M. excelsum
. The name Kawakawa
in Māori refers to the bitter taste of the leaves, from kawa
Kawakawa is a traditional medicinal plant of the Māori. An infusion is made from the leaves or roots, and used for bladder problems, boils, bruises, to relieve pain or toothache, or as a general tonic. The sweet yellow berries (most often found in summer on female trees) of the plant were eaten as a diuretic.
The leaves of this plant are used to make Titoki Liqueur which is exported to Japan, Australia, Fiji and the United Kingdom. The seeds of this plant could be used commercially as culinary spice, as this tree is related to Piper nigrum (Black pepper).
- Brooker S.G., R.C. Cambie & R.C. Cooper, New Zealand Medicinal Plants. Heinemann, Auckland, 1981.