Scientific name: Corynocarpus laevigatus
Other names: Kopi
Not native to Wellington
The majority of botanists agree karaka is native only to the northern half of the North Island. Karaka is a fast growing, shade tolerant species, up to 16 metres high. It quickly fills gaps in disturbed coastal forests where resident species diminish or disappear, sometimes becoming the dominant species in an area.
In the absence of large, karaka-spreading birds such as kereru, karaka’s seeds usually fall next to the parent trees creating dark groves of different ages, and pushing most other species aside. However, blackbirds have been seen to swallow karaka fruit, which can increase the speed at which they spread.
The large, oval, poisonous fruits of the karaka tree ripen from January to April, changing colour from green to orange. They litter the ground, causing an offensive smell as they decay.
It’s believed karaka was brought to New Zealand by Maori settlers. It is regarded as a serious invasive species in Hawaii’s native ecosystems.