Griselinia littoralis “Variegata” – New Zealand Privet

If you needed to be convinced that griselinia makes a good coastal specimen then this photo should do the job.  There are a total of seven griselinia species, two of which are native to New Zealand, G. littoralis or Kaputa in Maori and G. lucida or Akapuka.  The remaining five are native to South America.   Griselinia was named after the Venetian naturalist Francesco Griselini (1717-83) and littoralis means growing near the sea shore, although in the wild it is found anywhere from lowland mixed woodland to the subalpine scrub.  This cultivar, stoically clinging on to the cliff edge, is called Griselinia littoralis “Variegata“.  The bright green, cream edged ovate foliage is the main attraction to us humans.  The tiny flowers whch are held in panicles of between 50 and 100 separate blooms are an inconspicuous green and yellow and being a good source of nectar in the spring are what impress the insects.  The female plant, if accompanied by a male, will then go on to produce purple-black berries.  The species, which we have growing both as a hedge and a free-standing many stemmed tree, seeds itself prolifically and we have seedlings popping up all over the garden.  Although it can grow to 20m, it is easily kept more compact by regular pruning and it will make a good, dense evergreen hedge needing minimal maintenance.  It is not fussy but does not like waterlogged conditions and may develop root rot as a result.  In the wild it starts life as an epiphyte on fallen trees but as it matures it becomes terrestrial by reaching its roots down into the soil.  The inner bark was used by the Maori, amongst other things, as a cure for some forms of tuberculosis. The timber is both strong and durable but is a frustration to the carpenter as there is rarely a straight and true piece to use.  Its leathery leaves are the secret to its wind and salt tolerance, so they are not only beautiful but useful, perhaps we can have our cake and eat it!



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3 responses to “Griselinia littoralis “Variegata” – New Zealand Privet

  1. Alex

    Seedlings, you say? We like seedlings up here, we do!

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