Name: Meryta sinclairii
Size: 4-6m high
The genus Meryta contains about 25 species, most of which
are found in New Caledonia. Meryta sinclairii is New Zealand's
The leaves of this grand
tropical-looking tree are glossy green and large, being 25-50 cm
long and half as wide again. The tree grows into a rounded shape
and will branch if encouraged.
Heavily veined, the
leaves are quite leathery and wavy on the edges. A few weeks before
shedding, the leaves turn rich yellow and are quite attractive.
The flowers, produced
mid-winter, are very small and green. These are followed (on female
plants only) by 12mm long black, shiny fruits.
Puka is an impressive
specimen tree for any garden, especially native or tropical settings.
It looks great in patio pots too, but ensure that it does not become
There is an extremely
attractive variegated form, Meryta sinclairii 'Moonlight',
which is cream and yellow with green margins. However, it is not
readily available, and although highly sought after, it is expensive
and disease prone.
Plant the puka in full sun to partial shade with deep, well-drained
but moist soil. If planted in partial shade, the puka will generally
be taller than if planted in full sun, as stems will shoot up until
leaves are in sunlight before filling out.
Puka is quite hardy
in that it can withstand strong winds and salt, making it ideal
for coastal areas. However, the tree does not enjoy heavy frosts.
Encourage branching of the tree by pinching out the growing tips.
Ensure pruning is done in spring when the sap is rising.
It is not difficult
to propagate by seed in spring when the seed is ripe. Cover with
glass and sow in a box at least 18mm deep. Cuttings can be taken,
too, but these are difficult to grow.
Pukas are susceptible
to black spot in humid conditions, and phytophthora (root rot) in
wet soil conditions. Both should be treated with a systemic fungicide.
with permission from NZOOM Home and Garden content,
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