Discaria toumatou is also known as Matagouri. It is a tangle branched extremely thorny bush or small tree that can grow up to 6m high. Endemic. Small dark green leaves. Common in grasslands, stony areas and river beds.
Like plants such as the legumes, matagouri has special micro-organisms on its roots that enable the plant to take nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it into a form that can be used by the plant. This ability to ‘fix nitrogen’ means that Discaria toumatou can live in relatively nutrient-poor habitats. They enrich the soil around them and thereby allow other plant species to regenerate. For this reason, they are a necessary revegetation plant for drier projects. Matagouri is very slow-growing and some plants on undisturbed river terraces can be over 100 years old.
Matagouri can be found throughout Canterbury south through Otago, but it is rare on the west coast of the South Island and uncommon in the North Island. It is frequently found in short tussock grasslands in the South Island and can also be found on sand dunes and river beds. Often found in dry woodland plant communities that include but are not limited to Olearia paniculata , Pittosporum tenuifolium, Melicytus alpinus, Poa cita, and Muehlenbeckia axillaris.
For more information on plant communities, we recommend DOC’s publication Native Plant Communities of the Canterbury Plains.