September 30, 2014

Burst of Pukanui

Plants from Middle Earth

Garden Maine’s New Zealand Extravaganza – Celebrating a Completely Unexpected Journey

Anna Paton Photo | Meryta sinclairii or Pukanui

Anna Paton Photo | Meryta sinclairii or Pukanui

Anna Paton Photo | Meryta sinclairii or Pukanui

Anna Paton Photo | Meryta sinclairii or Pukanui

With a spectacular shape and huge glossy leaves, Meryta sinclairii is quite a tree to see. Growing up to 25 feet in height, this New Zealand native, called Pukanui, can sport leaves nearly 20 inches long and about 8 inches wide. According to Wikipedia, these are the largest entire leaves in New Zealand’s flora. It is endemic (see explanation below) and a coastal native from Three Kings Island that can be found growing in large groves with Cordyline australis, featured here and known as the cabbage tree (which is also pictured in the background behind this pukanui). A New Zealand nursery has this tidbit about the plant’s history: “After a visit to the Three Kings Islands in 1890,  T. F. Cheeseman (curator of the Auckland Museum) wrote, ‘Few trees have bolder or handsomer foliage, and it might be used with considerable effect in land-scape gardening. It is easy of cultivation, perfectly hardy in the North Island, will bear exposure to the strongest winds, and in good soil makes very rapid growth.’” Giving the plant its unique look is the way the two dozen or so leaves are clustered at the end of each branch tip.

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Photographs kindly provided by Anna Paton of Auckland, New Zealand, at Auckland Botanic Gardens in November 2012. For a brief interview with Anna, click to read here.

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“New Zealand’s flora is described as being unique due to our long isolation many thousands of years ago. We have some 2,357 different plant species and approximately 80% of them are endemic, meaning they don’t occur anywhere else in the world.”

- From the Auckland Botanic Gardens website

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How did all this come about? You can read about how Janine Pineo of Garden Maine found Anna Paton, more than 9,000 miles away, as the crow flies. If a crow could fly 9,000 miles like that. Click here for that story.