Definitions

mirror plant

Coprosma

Coprosma is a genus of about 90 species that are found in New Zealand (45 spp), Hawaii (c. 20 spp) and in Borneo, Java, New Guinea, islands of the Pacific Ocean to Australia. Many species are small shrubs with tiny evergreen leaves, but a few are small trees and have much larger leaves. The flowers have insignificant petals and are wind-pollinated, with long anthers and stigmas. Natural hybrids are common. The fruit is a non-poisonous juicy berry, most often bright orange (but can be dark red or even light blue), containing two small seeds. It is said that coffee can be made from the seeds, Coprosma being related to the coffee plants. A notable feature (also found in other genera of the Rubiaceae) is that the leaves contain hollows in the axils of the veins; in these, and on the leaf stipules, nitrogen-fixing bacteria grow.

The name Coprosma means smelling like dung and refers to the smell (methanethiol) given out by the crushed leaves of a few species.

Common species include:

  • Coprosma acerosa (Tataraheke/Sand Coprosma), a small shrub with linear leaves
  • Coprosma foetidissima, a small New Zealand tree with foul-smelling leaves
  • Coprosma grandifolia (Kanono) a large bush with leaves 15 cm long or more; its bark contains an orange dye
  • Coprosma lucida (Karamu), a small tree
  • Coprosma robusta (Karamu), a small tree more common in northern areas of New Zealand than C. lucida
  • Coprosma repens (Taupata), a small tree with many variegated varieties and hybrids, grown extensively for the foliage in gardens in New Zealand, Australia, California and other temperate climates and known horticulturally as mirror plant.
  • Coprosma rhamnoides, a small shrub with small round leaves and dark red berries.
  • Coprosma quadrifida, a small Australian shrub with small ovate leaves, small orange or reddish berries, and a tendency for the ends of branches to form thorns.

The orange fruit of the larger species were eaten by Māori children, and are also popular with birds.

References

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