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Love it or hate it, the Lancewood tree is interesting!

  • Love it or hate it, the Lancewood tree is interesting!

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:

Comments (6)

  1. Grower

    Helene U Taylor

    Wow, I agree, that is a plant with an unusual appearance – and history!
    I Googled it and found some rather interesting looking pictures of its intermediate stage - big, very tall, but still with downwards facing branches. Not sure if I would have liked to have such a thing in my garden….It could come in handy in the future that one of many practical uses of this tree used to be to make whips :-)

  2. Grower

    Amanda CW

    Yes the juvenile and mature forms are so different that Captain Cook's Dr Solander identified them as entirely different genera and Sir Joseph Hooker saw them as different species. So the phase when one becomes the other looks like the most bizarre plant graft. My husband can't wait!

  3. Grower

    Jeremy Wright

    I love this tree! It's the only one I haven't had to get a tree guard for to protect it from deer.

  4. Grower

    Gray J

    Yes indeed I love this tree and anything unusual or ugly as my wife puts it but who wants to look at begonias or petunias all the time, or even the good old lawn Keep the faith lets have some more of the unusual

  5. Grower

    Jeremy Wright

    Thought I would give you an update on this extraordinary tree. It is now 2m tall and in the last 2 weeks has started to 'turn' into the mature tree. It is sprouting branches for the first time and these are pointing upwards, as you can see in the photos. No doubt at 2 metres it was beginning to be out of reach of the flightless Moa bird. However, these branches still sport the ferocious shark-toothed leaves. The fatter, softer leaves are still to come. I'll keep you posted!

    • Love it or hate it, the Lancewood tree is interesting!
    • Love it or hate it, the Lancewood tree is interesting!
  6. Grower

    Jeremy Wright

    Hmmm ... I was wrong. The new shark-toothed daggers grew out and now point downwards just like the others below. Maybe next year for the soft, fat leaves ...

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