Kunzea ericoides



Kanuka is a medium-sized native tree that can grow up to 25 metres tall. It has a slender trunk with rough and flakey bark that can peel off in papery strips. Kanuka leaves are narrow, pointed and prickly, with a unique and distinctive aroma when crushed. Kanuka produces small clusters of small white and pink flowers in summer. 


Kanuka is found throughout New Zealand in forests, shrubland and wetlands. It is one of the first tree species to be distributed and is an essential pioneer species. 

Cultural Importance

Kanuka has a range of traditional medicinal uses, including treating colds, cuts, and skin conditions. The bark and leaves were also used for weaving, and the wood was used for firewood and making tools.

Ecological Role

Kanuka is an important component of many New Zealand ecosystems and provides habitat and food for many native species, including birds, insects, and lizards. It is also an important species for ecological restoration, as it helps to stabilise soil and prevent erosion.

Associated Birds

Silvereye: Silvereyes, also known as waxeyes, are small passerine birds. They are often found in Kanuka forests, where they feed on the nectar, fruit, and insects associated with the tree.

Kereru: Kereru, or New Zealand pigeons, are large, endemic birds known for their distinctive appearance and iridescent feathers. They are known to feed on the leaves, buds, and flowers of the Kanuka tree.

Grey warbler: Grey warblers are small insectivorous birds that are commonly found in Kanuka forests. They construct delicate nests among the branches and feed on the insects that live in and around the trees.

New Zealand falcon: The New Zealand falcon, also known as karearea, is a bird of prey that inhabits various habitats, including Kanuka forests. They hunt small birds and mammals found in the forest, taking advantage of the tree's dense foliage for cover.

Whitehead: Whiteheads are small songbirds that are often found in Kanuka forests. They forage for insects and spiders on the tree's branches and are known for their distinctive white heads, giving them their name.

Rifleman: Riflemen are one of the smallest birds in New Zealand and are known for their rapid movements and agility. They can be found in Kanuka forests, where they search for insects and spiders among the tree's foliage.

Bellbird: The Bellbird, or Korimako, is a medium-sized songbird with a melodious and bell-like call. They are attracted to the nectar-rich flowers of Karamu trees and also consume berries and insects.

Fantail: The Fantail, or Pīwakawaka, is an agile bird known for its distinctive fan-shaped tail and acrobatic flight. They can often be spotted in Karamu trees, where they hunt insects by fluttering and flicking their tail.

Tui: Tui birds are attracted to Karamu trees for their nectar-rich flowers. They have a beautiful plumage and a unique song, often engaging in impressive aerial displays while feeding on the Karamu tree's nectar.

Conservation Status

Kanuka is not currently considered a threatened species. However, it is subject to some pest control measures to protect it from browsing by introduced mammals such as deer and possums.

Interesting Facts

  • Kanuka honey is highly valued for its antibacterial properties and is used in wound dressings and other medical applications.
  • Kanuka is closely related to Manuka; the two species often grow together in the same habitats.
  • The wood of the Kanuka tree is rugged and durable and has been used for making tool handles, fence posts, and other small items.

Conservation Tips

To protect Kanuka and other native species, it is crucial to prevent the spread of pests and invasive species, support local conservation efforts, and practice responsible land use and management.