Many strange plants appear in our garden courtesy of my husband, but none more so than the Lancewood tree. He's often guilty that he has spent yet more money on plants, so he smuggles them in when I am not looking and hopes I won't notice. Well he nearly succeeded with this one. Planted against a stone wall it's easy to miss. But once noticed ... "Why did you buy that!"
From New Zealand the tree, Pseudopanax ferox, has long, slim downward pointing, shark-tooth ridged leaves and a strong, very slender trunk in its first 15-20 years. It then matures into a rather more normal looking tree shape, bushy at the top with shorter, fatter leaves and no shark teeth. It's apparently quite popular as a small garden tree in New Zealand, but over time can reach 15 metres.
One theory goes that the tree evolved its juvenile form to protect it from the flightless Moa bird, now extinct, which grazed vast tracts of the New Zealand under storey. It reverts to a 'normal' shape once its leaves are out of their reach. There were 11 species of the Moa bird in New Zealand until human colonisation and hunting of the birds in the 13th century.
Anyway, weirder than that (well not really, but it was odd) the very same day our daughter rings up for advice on the name of a new start-up she's considering. "What do you thing of the name Moa?" I'd never come across the name before, the bird has been extinct for 700 years, and up it pops twice in one day!
Well there you go. Not sure I like it, but one thing's for sure. The cats won't climb it. The Maoris apparently used the leaves to spear wood pigeon. Kebabs on the BBQ next summer?
A couple of links for those that are interested: