Kiwi Gardener



Phytolacca dioica, ombú, is a relatively rare tree in New Zealand though widespread throughout the fertile lowlands of its native South America. It evolved from herbaceous (non-woody) ancestors, so even as a large tree its wood is soft and spongy, easy to cut with a knife. There are five notable ombú in the New Zealand Tree Register, all in the North Island: in Auckland, Tauranga, Hastings and New Plymouth. They can be unusual-looking trees, with large spreading buttresses, multiple trunks and wide-spreading branches.

The one in Albert Park, Auckland city centre (tree 1259), is by no means the tallest in the country at 11 metres, but it is a child-magnet – kids love clambering in and around its many stems. A close relative to ombú is inkweed, Phytolacca octandra, a soft, herbaceous plant reaching a metre or so high and wide in moist, fertile conditions, and found in some warmer parts of the country. – The NZ Tree Register

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