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Tawhiwhi (Pittosporum tenuifolium)

P. mayi. Hort. P. nigricans.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Pittosporum tenuifolium

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[11, 75, 200]. When grown as a formal hedge it is best trimmed in spring, though this will mean that the plant will not produce many flowers[245]. A compromise is to only trim the hedge every other year[245].

  • Medicinal Use

    None known

  • Edible Use

    Gum – fragrant. It is obtained by bruising the bark or by incision[128, 173].

  • Cautionary Notes

    This plant contains saponins[152, 154]. 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[K].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – sow when ripe in the autumn or in late winter in a warm greenhouse[78, 200]. 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[78]. 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[78]. Basal ripewood cuttings late autumn in a cold frame[200].
Succeeds in most well-drained soils of reasonably good quality in full sun or light shade[1, 200]. Succeeds in dry soils. Fairly tolerant of maritime exposure[75, 182], but it can be killed by cold winds[184]. Hardy to about -10¡c[184], it is tender outside the milder areas of Britain, but often self-sows when happy. Plants have reached a height of 9 metres in a sheltered position in eastern England[11]. A very ornamental plant[1], there are many named varieties[200]. Very amenable to pruning, plants can be cut right back into old wood if required[200]. The species in this genus are very likely to hybridize with other members of the genus[200]. When growing a species from seed it is important to ensure that the seed either comes from a known wild source, or from isolated specimens in cultivation. Plants are widely cultivated for their foliage which lasts a long time in water and is used in flower arranging[11, 75]. The flowers are honey-scented[188]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200].
New Zealand.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.