Brief tree descriptions

Find a brief description of trees, in alphabetical order by species name, using the alphabet links below:


Acacia melanoxylon (Australian/Tasmanian blackwood)

Important timber species, used for furniture, turning, veneer and panelling. Blackwood is very hardy and will grow in most sites but requires shelter and tending. Grown in the open it spreads outward and is difficult to control, even with extensive pruning.

Agathis australis (kauri)

Kauri will grow up to 80cm per year in a sheltered, moist and fertile situation. Growth is much slower on typical farm sites. Kauri has excellent timber and self-prunes. Minimum rotation time is about 70 years.

Agathis robusta (Australian kauri)

Australian kauri grows faster than native kauri and yields a similar timber. Well adapted to clay soils and wind.

Albizia julibrissin (silk tree)

A deciduous ornamental, this tree bears beautiful flowers during summer but requires some shelter as branches tend to be brittle.

Alectryon excelsus (titoki)

Normally found in coastal and lowland forests, titoki thrives along rivers. Frost tender when young, it needs shelter and prefers a heavy soil. Beautiful, graceful foliage.

Alnus cordata (Italian alder), Alnus jorullensis (Mexican evergreen alder), A. acuminata (Andean alder) Alnus Cremastogyne (Chinese evergreen alder) Alnus subcordata (Caucasian alder).

These alders are a versatile species in Northland and produce useful timber, provided they are pruned. They will grow in very disturbed and infertile sites, even on slip faces. They improve soil conditions by fixing nitrogen and their leaf drop builds up soil structure. Their timbers are good for furniture and firewood. Alders should not be planted alongside watercourses as they can add to the nitrogen load.

Araucaria heterophylla (Norfolk pine)

Very resistant to salt winds, this tree grows best in free draining soils but is adaptable to clays. Pruned trees yield a high-value clearwood timber indistinguishable from kauri. Useful as coastal shelter.


Casuarina (she oak)

Casuarina has beautiful timber with an appearance like oak, useful for cabinet making, turning and furniture. However, it is difficult to season, being prone to warping, cupping and collapse.

Casuarina glauca (swamp she oak)

This tree tolerates strong and salty winds and will survive both damp and dry conditions. Excellent coastal shelter, but this species suckers so should not be planted where it may spread inadvertently. Suckers are not a problem in pasture because they are eaten by stock.

Casuarina cunninghamiana (river she oak)

This tree tolerates strong winds and will survive both damp and dry conditions. Excellent shelter. Does not sucker.

Chamaecytisus palmensis (tree lucerne)

A nitrogen-fixing shrub, tree lucerne is adapted to drought-prone sites provided drainage is good. It withstands salt winds but has a limited life of three to five years. As it’s a soil improver, it can be used on a dry site to give early shelter to slower-growing natives. Useful bee food and native pigeons feed on the leaves and flowers.

Coprosma repens (taupata), C. robusta (karamu)

Taupata will withstand extreme coastal winds and dry conditions. It will hedge well and provide a good understorey, to about 1.5 metres. Karamu will not tolerate salt winds well, but makes an attractive understorey tolerating most soil conditions. They have prolific crops of orange berries enjoyed by tui and other birds.

Cordyline australis (cabbage tree/ti kouka)

The cabbage tree has a multi-branched head and perfumed flowers in August. Very hardy, it will grow in both wet and dry conditions. Well suited to riparian planting.

Corynocarpus laevigatus (karaka)

The karaka is a hardy tree surviving salt winds and dry coastal situations. Good for shade and amenity with its orange berries appearing in summer. The berries are poisonous to humans but loved by the native wood pigeon.

Cryptomeria japonica (Japanese cedar)

Grown mainly for shelter, cryptomeria has excellent timber that is naturally durable and used for cladding and weatherboards. Japanese cedar is well suited to forestry plantations in exposed locations. It’s relatively tolerant of salt winds and will grow in dry clays but has no tolerance of poor drainage.


A range of cypress species. Clones grow well in Northland and produce a valuable timber.

Cupressus lusitanica (Mexican cypress), C. macrocarpa (Monterey cypress)

Both have excellent timber used in place of kauri for boat building, weatherboards, structural applications, furniture making and turning.

C. macrocarpa will withstand dry conditions, salt winds and exposed sites. Excellent shelter when tended. C. lusitanica requires more sheltered sites and will not withstand salt winds but is less susceptible to cypress canker and fluting of the stem which both occur in humid conditions.

x Cupressocyparis ovensii (Ovens cypress)

This sterile cross between C. lusitanica and C. nootkatensis (Alaska cypress) is an excellent shelter and timber tree. It’s very hardy and will withstand wind and dry conditions but will not tolerate poor soil drainage. Because all trees are grown from cuttings, they make a very even shelter belt. This clone is a replacement for he Leyland cypress clones which are highly susceptible to canker and should not be grown in Northland.


Dacrycarpus dacrydioides (kahikatea)

Kahikatea is a beautiful, tall, straight tree growing to 60 metres. It prefers swampy, poorly drained land but is hardy and will tolerate most sites. The non-durable timber is straight grained and easily worked and the female trees bear a prolific berry crop, edible to humans, birds and possums.

Dodonaea viscosa (akeake)

A short-lived, small tree growing to 6m, akeake withstands salt winds and will cope with clay and dry soils. It’s excellent as a pioneering nurse and shelter species in dry and/or coastal situations. Akeake dislikes poorly drained soils. Two varieties are available, with either a green or purple leaf. An excellent dense firewood.



There are several species of eucalypts that are well suited for timber production in Northland, along with soil conservation, shelter and amenity.

Eastern bluegums

This group grows well in Northland although some seedlings are susceptible to insect pests so ensure an insect resistant strain is grown.

E. botryoides (Southern mahogany)

Wind hardy, this tree will withstand salt winds, dry and wet conditions and exposed areas. Useful for coastal shelter and/or very wet or dry areas. The timber from this tree is more durable than its close relative E. saligna.

E. saligna (Sydney bluegum)

Good furniture, veneer and building timber if milled properly. It requires better sites than E. botryoides but will tolerate poorer-draining low fertility clay soils and provides shelter.


These are noted for the durability of their timber in the ground and for few problems when milling.

E. globoidea (white stringybark)

Strong, tough, durable timber which mills well. It prefers a well-drained site that is not too dry. This species is frost hardy.

E. microcorys (tallow-wood)

Timber is dense, hard and durable and has been used for electric fence standards. It’s tolerant of shade and adaptable to clay soils. Prefers better soils, being intolerant of drought and palatable to possums. It is frost tender when young.

E. muelleriana (yellow stringy bark)

Hard, strong, durable timber which is excellent for farm and exterior uses. This tree does not tolerate poor drainage or hard frosts but will withstand clay or sandy soils.

E. pilularis (blackbutt)

Very durable timber, hard and strong. This tree will withstand poor clay soils and drought conditions. However, it’s frost-tender when young.


Fraxinus oxycarpa var 'Raywoodii' (claret ash)

This tree is noted for its claret coloured foliage and it grows well in dry clay soils and tolerates wind. It’s an attractive shade tree. Slow growing.

Fraxinus uhdei (Mexican ash)

This evergreen ash is noted for its rapid growth in Northland and adaptability to farm conditions and a range of soil types including clays. It is an attractive shade tree. The timber is lower density than ash grown in Europe and America.


Ginkgo biloba (ginkgo)

The main feature of this slow growing tree is its brilliant gold autumn colouring. A well-shaped tree, it will grow close to salt water, in most soils, and tolerates wind. Berries smell horrible so plant away from buildings.

Gleditsia triacanthos (honey locust)

Honey locust fixes nitrogen and is hardy, withstanding droughts and drained swamp conditions. The leaves turn brilliant yellow in autumn, and fall leaving pods which are good stock food. Honey locust is moderately slow growing and pod bearing varies between cultivars. The timber is ground durable and useful for furniture but tree form is variable. Spring pollen provides good bee food.

Grevillea robusta (Australian silky oak)

This graceful tree has a good display of orange flowers in January. The timber is valuable and easily worked. Branches tend to be brittle and shelter is required for good shape and timber production. Prefers loamy free draining soils.

Griselinia littoralis (broadleaf, kapuka)

These attractive small trees grow to 12 metres, are hardy and will withstand coastal winds. They will hedge well. Not suitable for timber production.

Griselinia lucida (puka)

Attractive small tree that grows to 8 metres with bright green, thick, shiny leaves. Similar in appearance to broadleaf. In the wild it usually starts life as an epiphyte and then its roots make their way down to the soil.


Hebe stricta (koromiko)

Because koromiko prefers dry, coastal areas and tolerates clays, it’s an excellent low coastal shelter. Self-seeding, it will also revegetate bare areas, over time. Attractive white or purple flowers are present for 3-4 months of the year.

Hoheria populnea (lacebark, houhere)

An attractive tree bearing white flowers in late summer. It’s hardy, and will grow in most situations. When pruned it grows to a medium height for a windbreak.


Jacaranda mimosaefolia (jacaranda)

Planted in a hot sheltered sunny position, jacaranda provides a spectacular display of purple flowers in summer. It prefers a free draining or sandy soil and does not grow well in clays.


Knightia excelsa (rewarewa)

Preferring plenty of light, the rewarewa is a striking, narrow tree growing to more than 30 metres. The timber is attractive, strong and used for interior decorative work. Hardy, it will grow in most free-draining soils but is slow growing for the first decade or two. Good bee and bird food.

Kunzea ericoides (kanuka)

Pioneer species, flowers gracefully in January on the end of branches. Good revegetation species, a larger tree and longer living than manuka. The wood makes excellent firewood.


Leptospermum scoparium (manuka)

Growing in almost any soil and climatic condition, manuka is a primary native coloniser. The wood makes excellent firewood and the tree flowers during spring-summer. Various coloured pink/red forms are available for amenity planting. A good nurse crop species for establishing native trees under.

Liquidambar styraciflua (liquidambar)

This tree is deciduous, with excellent autumn colour. It is hardy and will tolerate both wet and dry soils and wind. Colours range from orange through to red and are especially effective next to water. The timber is decorative and known as satin walnut. Requires shelter and good soil moisture.

Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree)

The tulip tree requires good soils and a sheltered site. It’s a graceful tree with beautiful flowers and foliage. It does not flower for 10-20 years, but the leaves are a buttery yellow autumn colour. Provides a high-quality ornamental timber but the trees are susceptible to possum browsing in spring.


Magnolia grandiflora (evergreen magnolia)

Tolerant of wind and dry clays, the magnolia is hardy and makes a good shade or specimen tree. White, fragrant flowers are profuse and spectacular from early summer until autumn. Timber is useful for furniture and does not warp but trees are slow growing.

Melia azedarach (bead tree)

With yellow autumn foliage and purple flowers succeeded by yellow berries, the melia is very attractive. Hardy, it will grow in most soils. However, all parts of the plant are poisonous and this may restrict where the tree is planted.

Melicytus ramiflorus (mahoe)

A small tree growing to about eight metres. Mahoe will withstand most soil conditions but does not grow well in very exposed sites. It is useful as an understorey shelter tree. The leaves are very palatable to stock.

Metrosideros excelsa (pohutukawa)

A Northland icon, pohutukawa withstands salt winds and dry coastal conditions. Dramatic prolific red flowers appear in early summer and are an important food source for tui. Pohutukawa make excellent shade and shelter in coastal areas but are very palatable to possums and frost tender when young. The nectar from the flowers is an important source of food for many birds and insects.

Metrosideros robusta (northern rata)

Devastated by possums, few mature rata remain in Northland’s forests. Rata will tolerate a wide range of conditions but needs protection from possums. The northern rata has a stunning display of red flowers in early summer and is an important source of high-quality nectar for tui, bellbird and other nectar-loving birds.

Morus alba (mulberry)

The mulberry bears fruit suitable for both birds and humans. They are small hardy trees, tolerating most soil conditions. They are useful for shade and attracting wild fowl around dams.


Nyssa sylvatica (black tupelo)

Tolerating wet and poorly drained conditions the tupelo, although very slow growing, has brilliant red autumn colours. Grows better with shelter from wind.


Olearia traversii (olearia)

This plant tolerates dry, windy, coastal conditions. It’s excellent for hedging, grows fast and bears profuse numbers of small, white flowers in spring.


Paulownia tomentosa (paulownia)

A quick growing, attractive tree bearing large purple flowers in spring. The timber is light and very soft. The tree requires deep, free draining soils that are moist over summer and good shelter because its large leaf is not tolerant of wind.

Phormium tenax (flax, harakeke)

Flax is tough, hardy and will tolerate very wet, very dry and coastal conditions. Excellent for revegetation, gully planting, riparian planting and low shelter. Tui are attracted to the flower stalks which emerge in late spring.

Pinus radiata (radiata pine)

New Zealand's most important commercial timber tree. Radiata will tolerate a very wide range of soils and climatic conditions. Timber is soft, easily worked, and although not durable, takes treatment very well. Tolerates coastal situations and windbreak trimming.

Pittosporum crassifolium (karo), P. eugenioides, (lemonwood/tarata), P. tenuifolium (kohuhu)

All these trees are fast growing and hardy (withstanding trimming) and are good for hedging. Karo makes excellent coastal shelter and will tolerate dry conditions. Tarata has attractive foliage and is a good understorey shelter away from the coast. Kohuhu will tolerate shady conditions.

Platanus acerifolia (London plane)

A large, spreading tree, good for shade and timber, which often grows to 30 metres or more. The timber is tough and decorative. Leaves are shed in autumn and have an orange/brown colour.

Podocarpus totara (totara)

Very hardy, totara will withstand dry clay soils and windy conditions. The timber is easily worked and used outside and in decorative work. Totara has potential to be farm grown for high quality timber.

Populus (poplars)

Poplars grow quickly and are effective for soil conservation, stock shelter, shade, fodder and as ornamental trees. In Northland most poplars will tolerate clay soils and wind. They are an excellent timber resource, providing a light, soft, tough and non-resinous white timber. Poplars are easily propagated from cuttings, poles or wands.

New poplar clones are being developed and are replacing older strains which are less tolerant of a range of climatic conditions, faster or slower growing depending on the application and more resistant to rusts disease and possums. Older strains no longer favoured for propagation are Eridano, Yeogi, Flevo, Cromarty and Androscoggin.

The following selection of poplar clones are currently recommended for use in Northland:

  • P. deletoides x yunnanensis (Kawa)
    Excellent for agroforestry and soil conservation; highly rust resistant and with some possum resistance. Two years to produce poles.
  • P. deltoides x nigra (Veronese)
    Black poplar hybrid. Good drought and wind tolerance; prone to some autumn rust.
  • P. x euramericana x nigra (Crowsnest)
    Suited to shelterbelt applications. An excellent soil conservation tree; reasonably drought tolerant.
  • P. Yunnanensis (Chinese poplar)
    Slower growing than kawa, holds foliage well into winter. Susceptible to black spot disease. Three years to produce poles.
  • P. deltoides × nigra (Otahuao)
    This clone has an upright crown and a heavier stem than the narrow-stemmed crowns seen in trees like ‘Fraser’. This is a medium crowned clone of more open form. ‘Otahuao’ is currently not prone to rust. It has fewer heavy limbs than ‘Argyle’, and a smoother bark as a young tree. It grows well in eastern North Island areas.
  • P. deltoides x nigra (Fraser)
    A narrow tree with a light, open canopy, similar to Veronese and Crowsnest. Lighter stems are prone to breakage.

Northland Regional Council has a poplar and willow nursery to support soil conservation work. A limited selection of clones are available each winter as poles.


Quercus (oaks)

Oaks are renowned for their timber, and the following varieties will grow well, giving autumn leaf colour.

Quercus coccinea (scarlet oak)

Prefers dry, sandy soils, good autumn colour.

Quercus palustris (pin oak)

Prefers wet, poorly drained areas, good colour (red/orange).

Quercus robur (English oak)

Excellent timber, yellow/orange autumn colour.


Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust)

Common throughout the USA and Europe, robinia is a fast growing, and highly regarded timber for its durability. It’s a very good erosion control species and will tolerate dry conditions and infertile soils. The timber is ground durable and used for furniture, insulators and architectural work.


Salix (willows)

There are numerous varieties of willows, all of which can be easily propagated from cuttings. They are divided into two broad groups: tree willows (up to 20 metres in height single trunk) and osier willows (also known as basket willows, medium sized shrubs slender branches and long narrow leaves).

Willows tolerate a wide range of conditions including very wet, poorly drained sites which makes them ideal for erosion control in wet areas on hill sides and gullies.

In New Zealand and parts of Northland willows are a troublesome species which choke watercourses exacerbating flooding and causing a range of issues. The worst is usually crack willow (Salix fragilis) and it’s not recommended for propagation or amenity planting.

The following is a selection of recommended clones for use presently in Northland.

Tree willows

  • S. matsudana (Peking willow) and S. alba x matsudana (Matsudana hybrids)
    Widely planted since the 1960s for soil conservation, shelter and as an ornamental.
  • S. alba ‘vitellina’ (Golden willow)
    Has bright yellow branchlets. Semi weeping habit grows up to 15 metres. Not affected by leaf gall sawfly.
  • S. matsudana (Tangoio)
    Developed specifically for farm and horticultural shelter planting, this is the best drought tolerate willow clone.
  • S. matsudana (Moutere)
    Blue-green foliage, best suited to moist gullies, can cope with exposed sites.

Osier willows

  • S. schwerinii (Kinuyanagi)
    Commonly known as Japanese fodder willow, this grows as a large shrub or small spreading tree up to six metres tall. Kinuyanagi is a fast grower and does well in most fertile soils. Kinuyanagi is a male clone which is highly resistant to willow sawfly and is a valuable fodder crop. Excellent for stabilising stream banks and gullies.

Sequoia sempervirens (Californian redwood)

Timber from the redwood is durable, easy to work and resists insects. It grows best with some shelter and on more fertile sites where the soil is deeper.

Sophora tetraptera, S. microphylla (kowhai)

A beautiful, deciduous tree flowering in spring and having delicate foliage. Tui feast on its nectar and native pigeons eat the new leaf growth. It grows well along river margins and close to the coast and will tolerate most soils. Susceptible to hormone sprays. Timber is tough, hard and durable with beautiful colour and grain.


Taxodium distichum (swamp cypress)

One of the few deciduous conifers, swamp cypress thrives in damp soils and the best shape is achieved in sheltered areas. Rich orange foliage in autumn is followed by delicate green new growth in spring.


Ulmus procera 'Louis van Houtte' (golden elm)

Tolerant of wind, golden elm has yellow foliage throughout the summer, turning golden in autumn as its leaves drop. An excellent shade tree, which will tolerate most soil conditions.


Vitex lucens (puriri)

Beautiful spreading evergreen tree. In a fertile, sheltered site they will grow quickly and provide shade and food for native birds. Puriri will also tolerate clay soils and wind, but are vulnerable to possums and frost (when young). Puriri heart wood is ground durable although the puriri moth can cause problems in some trees for timber production.