The largest fuchsia species in the world, kōtukutuku is one of Aotearoa/New Zealand’s few deciduous native trees, its name referencing the tukutuku or ‘letting go’ of its leaves each winter.
Bright yellow-green flowers draw the attention of hungry korimako, hihi, and tūī, who leave with tummies full of nectar and faces covered in bright blue pollen. After pollination, the flowers turn red and lose their sweet nectar as they no longer need to attract the attention of birds and insects.
Kākā and kākāriki seek out gentle hollows in kotukutuku trunks, laying their eggs on beds of soft sawdust. Possums love the taste of kōtukutuku leaves and can reduce a tree to a miserable, leafless stump.
The berries, too, are a favourite for both birds and people. Known as konini, ripe berries are sweet and were eagerly sought for food by both Māori and early European settlers.