Manual of the New Zealand Flora/Coriarieæ

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Manual of the New Zealand Flora by Thomas Frederick Cheeseman
Order XV: Coriarieæ

Order XXI. CORIARIEÆ.

Glabrous shrubs, sometimes small and almost herbaceous; branches angular, the lower opposite. Leaves opposite or rarely in whorls of 3, entire, exstipulate. Flowers regular, hermaphrodite or polygamous, small, usually in axillary racemes. Sepals 5, imbricate, persistent. Petals 5, hypogynous, smaller than the sepals, keeled within, enlarged after flowering and becoming thick and fleshy and embracing the fruit. Stamens 10, hypogynous, free, or the alternate ones adnate to the petals; filaments short; anthers large. Disc absent. Carpels 5–10, free, 1-celled, whorled on a short conical receptacle; styles as many as the carpels, free, thick, elongated, covered for the whole length with stigmatic papillæ; ovules solitary, pendulous from the top of the cell. Fruit of 5–10 oblong indehiscent cocci, closely embraced by the fleshy and juicy petals, 1-celled, 1-seeded. Seed with a membranous testa; albumen a thin layer only; embryo with plano-convex cotyledons and a superior radicle.

A small order of very doubtful relationship, comprising the single genus Coriaria. Species 8 or 10, found in New Zealand, South America, Japan, China, the Himalayas, north Africa, and south Europe.


1. CORIARIA, Linn.

Characters of the order, as above.

Shrub or small tree. Leaves 1–3 in., oblong-ovate. Racemes drooping 1. C. ruscifolia.
Suffruticose or herbaceous. Leaves 18–1 in., ovate-lanceolate 2. C. thymifolia.
Herbaceous. Leaves 1814 in., narrow-linear 3. C. angustissima .

1. C. ruscifolia, Linn. Sp. Plant. 1037.—A shrub or small tree with spreading 4-angled branches, very variable in height and degree of robustness, sometimes attaining 25 ft. with a trunk 10 in. diam., at others not more than 2–4 ft., with almost herbaceous stems. Leaves 1–3 in., ovate or oblong-ovate, acute or acuminate, rounded or cordate at the base, sessile or very shortly petioled, 3–5-nerved. Racemes drooping, many-flowered, 4–12 in. long or more, slightly pubescent; pedicels slender, 1413 in., bracteolate at the base. Flowers small, green, 1816 in. diam., strongly proterogynous. Sepals broadly ovate, subacute. Filaments elongating after fertilisation. Fruit globose, purplish-black, of 5–8 cocci enveloped by the persistent enlarged juicy petals.—Hook. f. Fl. Nov. Zel. i. 45; Handb. N.Z. Fl. 46; Kirk, Forest Fl. t. 139; Students' Fl. 97. C. sarmentosa, Forst. Prodr. n. 377; A. Rich. Fl. Nouv. Zel. 364; Bot. Mag. t. 2470; A. Cunn. Precur. n. 581; Raoul, Choix, 47. C. arborea and C. tutu, Lindsay, Contrib. N.Z. Bot. 84.

Kermadec Islands, North and South Islands, Stewart Island, Chatham Islands: Abundant throughout, ascending to 3500ft. Tutu; Tupakihi.

Most parts of the plant are poisonous, and particularly the young shoots and seeds. The poisonous principle appears to be a glucoside, to which the name "tutin" has been applied. For particulars, reference should be made to a paper by Prof. Easterfield and Mr. B. C. Aston, published by the New Zealand Department of Agriculture. The juice expressed from the fleshy petals is quite innocuous, and is used as a non-intoxicating drink by the Maoris.

2. C. thymifolia, Humb. and Bonp. ex Willd. Sp. Plant. iv. 819.—A small suffruticose or herbaceous plant 6 in. to 4ft. high; rootstock often stout, woody, much branched; stems and branches slender, with winged angles, often flattened in one plane. Leaves variable in size, 18–l in., oblong-ovate ovate-lanceolate or lanceolate, acute or acuminate, sessile or very shortly petioled, glabrous or slightly pubescent. Racemes 1–4 in. long, slender, spreading, pubescent. Flowers rather smaller than in C. ruscifolia, often unisexual.—Hook. f. Fl. Nov. Zel. i. 45; Handb. N.Z. Fl. 47; Lindsay, Contrib. N.Z. Bot. 87; Kirk, Students' Fl. 98. C. lurida, Kirk, l.c.

North and South Islands: Mountainous districts from Taupo and the East Cape southwards. 1000–5000 ft. Tutupapa.

In its ordinary state this is distinct enough; but large-leaved forms pass directly into C. ruscifolia, and narrow-leaved varieties into C. angustissima. I cannot separate Mr. Kirk's C. lurida even as a variety.

3. C. angustissima, Hook. f. Handb. N.Z. Fl. 47.—Rootstock stout, branched. Stems herbaceous, slender, tufted, often covering large patches. Branches numerous, dense, almost plumose; branchlets filiform or almost capillary. Leaves very numerous, small, 1814 in. long, narrow-linear or linear-subulate, sessile or very shortly petioled, acuminate. Racemes 1–3 in. long, slender, glabrous or nearly so. Flowers small, very similar to those of C. thymifolia, often unisexual. Fruit rather large, globose, almost black.—Lindsay, Contrib. N.Z. Bot. 87; Kirk, Students' Fl. 98.

North Island: Mount Egmont, Dieffenbach; Ruahine Range, Colenso (Handbook). South Island: Subalpine localities in Canterbury and Otago. 1500–4000 ft. December–January.

I have seen no North Island specimens, and suspect that slender fine-leaved forms of C. thymifolia have been taken for it in the localities quoted above.