Aristotelia serrata, also known as wineberry, is a small deciduous fast-growing tree or shrub. The tree can reach up to 10m tall, with a trunk diameter up to 30 cm. The bark is pale brown, smooth and patterned with flat lenticels. Branches are long, slender and spreading, branchlets have a reddish-brown colour when pubescent.
Aristotelia serrata leaves have distinguishable traits. Leaves are thin, deeply and sharply serrated with pointed tips and prominent veins forming an obvious net-like vein pattern on both sides. The leaves are light green. Flowers occur in an inflorescence, flowers of all shades intermixed, coloured in cream through pink to dark red. They are almost colourless when they open; then they change to pink, red, and dark red, providing a colorful display. Wineberry has male and female flowers on different plants, with some bisexual flowers among the males. The fruits that follow attract birds.
Endemic to New Zealand, wineberry is found throughout the South Island of New Zealand and lower North Island. It is common in moist forest and scrubland within the lowland, montane, and subalpine climates. Taking advantage of ecological disturbances such as natural tree falls Makomako is plentiful in regenerating forest and damp river margins. Forest clearings which are followed by the colonization of wineberry are often due to landslip, storm damage, natural tree fall, forest clearings, and forest fire. Because of this, Wineberry makes an ideal revegetation plant.
Both Makomako species are important Rongoā used as a general tonic for skin and arthritis problems as well as various cultural uses.
For additional photos, see Alan Jolliffe’s horticulture blog.