Botanical Name:Macropiper excelsum
Species: M. excelsu
Common Name: Kawakawa,
Habitat:Kawakawa is found throughout the North Island, and as far south as Okarito (43.20 °S) on the West Coast and Banks Peninsula on the east coast of the South Island.It prefers a moist rich & free-draining soil. It prefers a semi-shade to shade position. Kawakawa will tolerate an open windy situation but is frost tender.
Kawakawa is a densely branching shrub in the shade. Consequently it can be used under established planting that has started to open out below the canopy.
The leaves are about 5–10 cm long by 6–12 cm wide; they are opposite to each other, broadly rounded with a short drawn-out tip and are heart-shaped at their bases. The leaves are deep green in color if growing in the forest but may be yellowish-green when growing in more open situations.The flowers are produced on greenish, erect spikes that are 2.5-7.5 cm long. Kawakawa flowers are quite minute and very closely placed around the spike. After pollination the flowers gradually swell and become fleshy to form small, berry-like fruits that are yellow to bright orange.
The fruit which are only on female trees (2 to 5 cm) long are a whole lot of little fruit clustered on a central stem, green at first but changing to orange when ripe The seed in the soft, orange spikes that are a favoured food of many birds in late summer and are dispersed by them.
The name Kawakawa in Maori refers to the bitter taste of the leaves.
The leaves are often covered with insect holes due to damage by Kawakawa looper moth caterpillar (Cleora scriptaria, Family: Geometridae).See photo below.
Berries. Each berry is the size of a small plum and egg-shaped. Ripening period is January and February. These fruits are favoured by kereru, or New Zealand pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) and tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae).
The leaves are often covered with insect holes. The images depict the variety majus which has larger and more glossy leaves than M. excelsum.
The fruit, bark and leaves of the kawakawa all have medicinal properties. The leaves are made into a tea by being steeped in hot water. Maori custom is to use the leaves as a head wreath for tangis, chew the leaves to reduce toothache and place leaves on a fire to create an insect repellent.
The root, fruit, seeds and especially the leaves of the Kawakawa plant were favourite medicinal remedies of the New Zealand Maori. In fact the kawakawa is one of the only plants still used by the Maori people today. Externally, Kawa Kawa was used to heal cuts and wounds, as an ingredient in vapour baths, and also as an insect repellent. Internally, it was found to be effective as a blood purifier in cases of eczema, boils, cuts, wounds, rheumatism, neuralgia, ringworm, itching sore feet, and all forms of kidney and skin ailments. The leaves were chewed to alleviate toothache. The bruised leaves drew pus from boils and skin infections. A drink made from the leaves helped stomach problems and rheumatics when rubbed on joints. The leaf, if dried and burnt is an insect repellent.
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.