Pittosporum eugenioides is endemic to New Zealand and commonly distributed throughout the country. Often found in plant communities that have Pittosporum tenuifolium. Easily distinguished from P. tenuifolim as the leaves have a lemon smell when crushed. This attribute is why Pittosporum eugenioides is also called Lemonwood. Common tree of regenerating and mature forest in coastal to montane situations. It is found in forest clearings and along forest margins up to 600m above sea level. The species can be found in regenerating areas of forest, both young and old. Lemonwood is the largest of the New Zealand pittosporums and can reach a height of around 12m. It has a fast growth rate and after five years can reach a height of 3m depending on where it is planted.
It has proved to be a great plant for establishing a quick canopy in a restoration project. It then provides an opportunity to introduce understory, shade loving plants to the same location, later planting underneath the lemonwood trees. Lemonwood is on the recommended list for replanting “small trees up to 6m.”
Pittosporum eugenioides starts out as a small compact tree, as it matures it becomes a tall branched tree. The lemonwood flowers between October and December. Leaves glossy pale green, wavy-edged – flowers fragrant, in clusters. Green fruit, black sticky seeds. The fruit of the lemonwood takes between 12 and 14 months to ripen. There is unripe fruit and ripe fruit present on the lemonwood at the same time, this is the current season’s fruit and last season’s fruit.
This invaluable shrub is the backbone of many gardens. Great in a windy position and also provides a barrier for the surrounding more intolerant plants. Pittosporums can be excellent stand-alone features, hedges, screens, windbreaks, shrubberies or topiary specimens. The highly ornamental, evergreen foliage almost always looks well-groomed and responds well to pruning. Frost tender when very young. Prefers a sunny to part shade position, does not mind the wind, and thrives in soil with good drainage. Tarata is somewhat drought-resistant therefore rainfall is not a major factor in its survival.
Maori traditionally used the gum and crushed leaves and flowers of the tarata for scent. More info about traditional uses can be found here.