Name: Ngaio

Scientific name: Myoporum laetum

NZ Status: Endemic

Conservation Status (NZTCS): Non threatened

Found: Ngaio is a very familiar salt-tolerant species found mostly in coastal, but also in lowland forests throughout the country. Ngaio is uncommon in the far south.

Did you know? Ngaio’s leaves are green and fleshy with dotted yellow oil glands that are packed full of a toxin that can cause sickness or death in stock such as cattle, sheep, pigs and horses. When extracted the oil can also be used for medicinal purposes.

Photo Credit: Pam Fuller

Ngaio is a hardy fast-growing tree up to 10 metres tall. Often a dome shaped tree, ngaio has a trunk about 30 cetimetres in diameter with rough and furrowed bark. Its delicate flowers are white spotted with purple and occur from mid-spring to mid-summer. Ngaioberries are redish purple and ripen through summer and autumn. 

Ngaio has been used as a medicinal plant by Māori for toothache and skin complaints. It was also used as insect repellent; young shoots or an infusion of leaves were rubbed onto the skin to ward off mosquitoes and sandflies.

The genus is mainly Australian with a few species in New Zealand and east Asia.


Look for them: At ZEALANDIA ngaio are common along Lake Road, particularly in the northern section.