A closer look at Coprosma rigida

There are few groups of plants that exhibit such a wide range of adaptations to New Zealand's varied landscapes as the genus Coprosma. From creeping vines to upright, a variety of leaf sizes and berry colours, shade dwelling or sun tolerant; Coprosma have an astounding variety of habits, characteristics and tolerances.

This is Coprosma rigida, a common shrub found throughout New Zealand. There are around 90 species in the genus of Coprosma, with 45 species endemic to New Zealand and the rest found throughout the South Pacific. Coprosma species can easily hybridise in the wild, which can make plants difficult to identify.  

The Coprosma genus is a relative of the coffee plant (it is in the Rubiaceae family) and early settlers just arriving in New Zealand tried using it to make a beverage, but with varying success. A lot of seeds are required to make just one brew!

The fruit on Coprosma is edible and attracts mostly birds, lizards and invertebrates. The divaricating (branching or deviating) and dense nature of this shrub makes it a perfect home for lizards and small birds, such as green geckos and fern bird. There is evidence to suggest that lizards prefer to eat white or blue coloured fruit from Coprosma (which makes up 21% of the fruit in the genus), rather than the more common red or yellow fruit.

The various species of Coprosma have been widely recognised for their ornamental and landscape planting attributes with many varieties bred to select features that make them attractive garden and public realm ornamental plants. Coprosma are widely grown commercially and area popular inclusion in public and private landscapes.

Coprosma rigida grows in poorly drained soil and is often found on the edges of lowland forest remnants, associated scrublands and river terraces. Coprosma rigida can grow up to four metres tall and requires separate male and female plants to regenerate.

This specimen was photographed in scrubland at Pūkaha Mt Bruce during our biodiversity inventory in March 2019 

For further information please contact Samantha King

9 July 2019