Puka is a smaller-sized native evergreen tree that grows up to 10-12 metres tall. The tree has a slender and straight trunk with a dense crown. The leaves are glossy and dark and have a unique yellow-green midrib.
Puka is endemic to New Zealand and is found throughout the North Island and the north of the South Island. It thrives in well-drained soils and grows in various habitats, including forests, swamps and coastal cliffs.
Puka has significant cultural importance to Māori. The leaves were used for medicinal purposes, and the tree was used for carving and making weapons. The fruit of the Puka was used to make a type of glue, which was used to attach feathers to weapons and tools.
Puka provides habitat and food for native birds, such as tui and bellbirds. The tree also plays a crucial role in preventing erosion in coastal areas.
Pūkeko: Also known as the New Zealand Swamp Hen, Pūkeko are large, vibrant birds with blue plumage and a red bill. They are commonly found in wetland areas, including those where Puka trees grow. Pūkeko forage for food near Puka trees, feeding on leaves, seeds, insects, and small animals.
Tūī: Tūī are medium-sized honeyeaters known for their distinctive white throat tufts and beautiful songs. They visit Puka trees for their nectar-rich flowers, playing an important role in pollination. Tūī also feed on insects and fruits found in and around Puka trees.
Kākāriki: Colourful parakeets can be found in forests where Puka trees grow. They have green feathers and are known to forage for seeds, fruits, and insects in and around Puka trees.
Kererū: Kererū are large, iridescent pigeons that play a crucial role in seed dispersal. They feed on the fruits of Puka trees, swallowing the seeds and dispersing them through their droppings as they move from tree to tree.
Ruru (Morepork): The native owl of New Zealand, Ruru are nocturnal birds that may roost in Puka trees during the day. They are known for their haunting calls and feed on a variety of prey, including insects, small mammals, and birds.
Puka is not classified as a threatened species. Like all native New Zealand trees, it is vulnerable to habitat loss and degradation caused by introduced pests and land use changes.
To help conserve Puka and other native New Zealand trees, it is essential to support initiatives that aim to restore and protect native forests. Planting native trees in gardens and public spaces can also help increase habitat and biodiversity. It is also crucial to prevent the introduction and spread of pests, such as possums and rats, which can cause significant damage to native forests.