Herb: Tawhiwhi

Latin name: Pittosporum tenuifolium

Synonyms: Pittosporum mayi, Pittosporum nigricans

Family: Pittosporaceae

Edible parts of Tawhiwhi:

Gum - fragrant. It is obtained by bruising the bark or by incision.

Description of the plant:


7 m
(23 feet)



Habitat of the herb:

Coastal to lower montane forests, North and South Islands, especially from North Cape and southwards.

Other uses of Tawhiwhi:

Very tolerant of trimming, plants can be grown as a formal or informal hedge in exposed maritime areas, though they do not stand extreme exposure. When grown as a formal hedge it is best trimmed in spring, though this will mean that the plant will not produce many flowers. A compromise is to only trim the hedge every other year.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - sow when ripe in the autumn or in late winter in a warm greenhouse. The seed usually germinates freely. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle, move the plants to a cold frame as soon as they are established and plant out late in the following spring. Consider giving them some protection from the cold during their first winter outdoors. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 7cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Poor to fair percentage. Basal ripewood cuttings late autumn in a cold frame.

Cultivation of Tawhiwhi:

Coastal to lower montane forests, North and South Islands, especially from North Cape and southwards.

Medicinal use of the herb:

None known

Known hazards of Pittosporum tenuifolium:

This plant contains saponins. Saponins are found in many foods, such as some beans, and although they are fairly toxic to people they are poorly absorbed by the body and most pass straight through without any problem. They are also broken down if the food is thoroughly cooked for a long time. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.