Herbs & Plants

Beilschmiedia tawa

Botanical Name: Beilschmiedia tawa
Family: Lauraceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Laurales
Genus: Beilschmiedia
Species: B. tawa

Common Name: Tawa

Habitat: Beilschmiedia tawa is native to New Zealand. It grows in the shady & moist forests in lowland and lower montane areas on North and South Islands, south to 42° S.

Beilschmiedia tawa is an evergreen Tree growing to 25 m (82ft 0in). The usually straight, cylindrical bole can be 45 – 100cm in diameter and free of branches for up to 9 metres.The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs).
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Tawa trees produce small inconspicuous flowers followed by 2–3.5 cm long fruit of a dark red plum colour. With such large fruits the tawa is notable for the fact that it relies solely on the New Zealand pigeon (kereru). Tawa can also support significant epiphyte gardens in their canopies, which are one of the few habitats known to be frequented by the enigmatic, arboreal striped skink.


Beilschmiedia tawa occurs naturally over a wide climatic range in New Zealand, but is patently sensitive to exposure, drought, snow fall, and severe frost. Mature plants can withstand short-lived temperatures down to about . 9°C, but their young growth is severely to fatally damaged by out-of-season frosts. Seedlings are particularly susceptible to damage by frost, wind, drought, and sun, and do not establish readily in large canopy gaps.
Plants tolerate a very wide range of soils but do not thrive under poor drainage, nor on dry, rocky soils.
Trees, even when fairly old, can be coppiced.

Under moist conditions the fast growing taproot penetrates litter and humus layers and quickly reaches the mineral soil; such seedlings often survive for a long period under the dense shade of high forest.The plant can develop a large root system under these conditions, even though the shoots may die back several times. The root stock may thus become a perennating organ, assisting survival of the plant, and enabling it to produce further shoots when light becomes more favourable.
Under a dense canopy seedlings may persist for many years with little or no gain in height; in one trial plot under such conditions small seedlings which survived for 17 years gained only 5- 10cm in height.

In small canopy gaps annual height growth of seedlings averages approx. 15cm but coppice shoots from damaged or cut stems in the same situations may grow up to 50cm in 1 year.
The largest trees probably have a life span of some 400 years; but as the species is more susceptible to heart-rot, and large diameters are not common, the average life span is likely to be 200 – 300 years for trees that have not been suppressed for long periods when small

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe when almost 100% will germinate. Viability deteriorates rapidly as the seed dried.
Layering, even of quite old branches, is fairly easy.

New Zealand pigeon (kereru) and (where present) the North Island kokako for dispersal of its seed. These are the only remaining birds from New Zealand’s original biota large enough to eat the fruits of this tree and pass the seeds through their guts and excrete them unharmed.

Edible Uses:
Fruits are eaten – raw or cooked. A sweet taste when it is fully ripe. Seed – cooked. It is usually steamed and then dried, when it will store in good condition for several years.
The kernel of the tawa berry was used by Maori as food. The berries were steamed in an umu (earth oven) for two days, then washed to remove the turpentine-flavoured pulp. The dried kernels were stored. When required, they were soaked in hot water and pounded, sometimes flavouring being added to the mashed meal.

Medicinal Uses:
The bark is used as a treatment for stomach-aches and colds.
A decoctionof the bark is used to treat wounds (usually combined with rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum) and tutu (Coriaria species)).

Beta-sitosterol has been recorded as being isolated from the bark of this plant. The compound is a major component of an American proprietary drug used to lower blood cholesterol levels.

Isoboldine and other alkaloidshave been isolated from the berries

Other uses:

The aromatic bark may have commercial use – it belongs to the same natural order as those producing the cinnamon, cassia, sassafras, benzoin, and camphor of commerce.

The heartwood is a pale, grayish brown colour, sometimes with dark brown streaks; it is not clearly demarcated from the sapwood. The texture is moderately fine; the grain usually straight; lustre is low; there is no distinctive odour or taste. The wood is hard and strong. It kiln and air dries readily with little or no degrade. It works satisfactorily with both hand and machine tools; has a moderate blunting effect on cutters; tends to split in nailing; glues well; splits evenly and cleanly. The heartwood is nondurable; the sapwood vulnerable to powder-post beetle attack. The wood is used for flooring, joinery, furniture components, plywood, cooperage, turnery, doweling. It is used as pulp for making fine grades of paper.

The wood of this tree can be used for attractive and resilient floorboarding. Although largely protected in conservation areas and by robust environmental legislation, licences are occasionally granted for the odd fallen tree to be milled for its timber.The wood is used for fuel

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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