Botanical Name: Hoheria populnea
Species: H. populnea
Common Names: New Zealand mallow, Lacebark or Houhere
Habitat: Hoheria populnea is native to New Zealand. It has a natural distribution from the North Cape of the North Island, to the Bay of Plenty. It grows on the coastal to lowland forests, by river banks and on woodland edges in North Islands south to latitude 38°s.
Hoheria populnea is an evergreen flowering plant, growing to 5 m (16ft) by 5 m (16ft) at a medium rate. It has oval leaves, with serrated margins. The leaves are dark green, 5–12 cm long and 6 cm wide. The plant produces white flowers in clusters from January to March. It is in leaf all year. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees. It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Grows in any good, well-drained soil. Requires a position in full sun or dappled shade, succeeding in acid or alkaline soils. Plants grown in a soil that is overly rich produce a lot of sappy growth that is more susceptible to frost damage. Withstands strong winds but is best if given protection from cold north-easterly winds. Another report says that it requires a position sheltered from strong winds. Prefers a moist atmosphere. Prefers a maritime climate. Plants grow best in an open clearing in a woodland garden. A very ornamental plant, it is only hardy in the milder areas of the country, tolerating temperatures down to about -10°c. Plants are prone to damage at temperatures lower than -5°c. A very variable plant, leaves of young plants are often deeply lobed but on older plants they are more or less entire and toothed. Juvenile plants also have a compact shrubby habit, quite unlike the mature plant. There are some named forms selected for their ornamental value. Plants are subject to attacks by the coral-spot fungus, especially after cool wet summers. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus. A good butterfly plant.
Medicinal Uses: Demulcent, ophthalmic.
The bark of the plant was used in Maori traditional textiles to create ropes, hats, kits and headbands. Oral histories tell of early experiments to create felted material from the plant, similar to aute (the paper mulberry used in Polynesian textiles), however attempts were unsuccessful. The fibre is also used as ornamentation in basket making and for bonnets etc. Wood – white, very tough. Used by cabinet makers, it also makes an excellent fuel.
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