Window on Waitakere: Easy bird watching
By Kay Lindley You don’t always have to go into the depths of the Ark to enjoy the sight of Waitakere Ranges birds feeding – sometimes the birds come to you.
Through the window of the Ranger Station recently Ark Manager Maj de Poorter and others had a very close view of an iridescent Tui taking small inky purple fruits from a tall shrub hard against the building in a neighbouring garden.
A few days later Ark in the Park member Grant Capill and others were thrilled at a Kereru, only one metre above their heads, gorging on the same fruits.
This small tree is a common and important member of the understorey of the forest and is one of its heaviest fruiters, often surpassing some larger tree species in output. It is Mapau ( Myrsine australis) bearing on attractive red stems its small alternate leaves with wavy margins.
Beetles in large numbers often chew the young leaves later in the season, providing further food for birds. A good plant to get to know. Commonly known as Red Matipo, mapau is a species of shrub within the Myrsine family.
It is endemic to New Zealand and found throughout the country and offshore islands. It has crinkly-edged leaves which make it easily mistaken for a pittosporum and reddish bark and stems, however reddish and purplish blotching on leaves is often a distinguishing factor.
Growing to around six metres in height, it inhabits bush margins and is often planted in regeneration projects. The bark on a mature trunk is grey. Mapou produce very small black fruit in summer (popular with birds) these grow directly on the stem of the plant, not at the end of branches and twigs. It is dispersed by wax eyes and young seedlings are common around the parent tree.
Maori boiled Mapou leaves to make an infusion (tea) for toothache. They also used the leaves as relief for arthritic problems, as a remedy for skin disease, intestinal worms and as a general tonic. The branch wood was used for digging sticks and adze handle sockets.
In European times the hard timber has been used for building, although its most popular use has probably been for firewood.
For the opportunity to see the Mapau in the Waitakere ranges, and to go on the Walking Waitakere Wednesday Walks series, please email me on: firstname.lastname@example.org.