Pseudopanax crassifolius



Horoeka can grow up to 10 meters tall, but it is usually much smaller. The tree has a slender trunk that is green and smooth when young, but becomes woody and barky with age. The leaves are long and narrow, with a distinctive lance-like shape that gives the tree its common name. The leaves are dark green and glossy, and often have five fingers, hence the other common name, "five-finger".


Horoeka is found throughout New Zealand, from sea level to the sub-alpine zone. It is a hardy species that can tolerate a range of conditions, from wet lowland forests to dry, exposed slopes.

Cultural Importance

Māori has used Horoeka for a variety of purposes, including the construction of tools and weapons. The flexible wood was particularly valued for making fishing spears and digging sticks. The leaves were also used for weaving.

Ecological Role

Horoeka plays an important role in New Zealand's forests. It provides habitat for native birds and insects, and its leaves are a food source for the caterpillars of several moth species. The distinctive shape of the leaves also helps to identify Horoeka in the forest.

Associated Birds

Fantail: Fantails are drawn to Horoeka trees for the insects and spiders that inhabit the plant's foliage, providing them with a rich source of food as they flit through the leaves.

Kākāriki: Kākāriki are attracted to Horoeka trees for their seeds and flowers, as they are known to feed on a variety of plant materials. The tree's resources offer sustenance to these parakeets.

Shining Cuckoo: Shining Cuckoos are attracted to Horoeka trees for potential nesting sites in the dense foliage. The tree's structure offer suitable locations for these migratory birds to lay their eggs.

Pūkeko: Pūkeko are attracted to wetland areas where Horoeka trees might grow, foraging for insects and invertebrates around the plants. The wetland habitat created by Horoeka  provide a feeding ground for these birds.

Conservation Status

Horoeka is not currently considered threatened, but it is affected by browsing from introduced mammals such as possums, which can prevent the tree from regenerating.

Interesting Facts

  • The distinctive shape of Horoeka's leaves changes as the tree matures. Young trees have long, narrow leaves with sharp tips, while older trees have broader, more rounded leaves.
  • Horoeka is a member of the Araliaceae family, which also includes the ginseng and ivy plants.
  • The tree's common name, "lancewood," comes from the fact that early European settlers used the flexible young trunks to make lance shafts.

Conservation Tips

To help conserve the houhere, it is important to prevent the spread of pests such as possums and rats, which can damage the tree and impact its ability to reproduce. It is also important to avoid removing Horoeka from natural areas without permission and to plant native trees, including houhere, in urban and suburban areas to provide habitat for birds and other wildlife.