Separate male and female plants
By Cushla McGaughey
Five-finger is one of New Zealand’s many dioecious species – having separate male and female trees.
In this way, cross-pollination is guaranteed.
When pollen from a flower on one plant is transferred to a flower on another plant of the same species, the seedlings that develop are more varied and virile.
Consequently they are less prone to genetic defects.
Flowers and fruit
The flowers on female trees have small, non-functional stamens. Those on male trees have long stamens for releasing pollen.
Nectar on female flowers collects on the top of the flowers so that the clusters of flowers form a floral lollypop. As tui or bellbirds lick over the surface of the clustered flowers, the pollen dusting their heads transfers to the flower stigmas.
Fruit develops only on female trees.
The berries are eagerly sought by kereru, bats, gecko and tree weta as well as tui and bellbirds.
The hardy Five-finger is one of our commonest native trees.
Rapid growth makes it useful as a pioneer plant in forest regrowth.