|Leaves and fruit|
Myoporum laetum, commonly known as ngaio // or mousehole tree is a plant in the family Scrophulariaceae endemic to New Zealand, including the Chatham Islands. It is a fast growing shrub, readily distinguished from others in the genus by the transparent dots in the leaves which are visible when held to a light.
Ngaio is a fast-growing evergreen shrub or small tree which sometimes grows to a height of 10 metres (30 ft) with a trunk up to 0.3 metres (1 ft) in diameter, or spreads to as much as 4 metres (10 ft). It often appears dome-shaped at first but as it gets older, distorts as branches break off. The bark on older specimens is thick, corky and furrowed. The leaves are lance-shaped, usually 52–125 millimetres (2–5 in) long, 15–30 millimetres (0.6–1 in) wide, have many translucent dots in the leaves and edges which have small serrations in approximately the outer half.
The flowers are white with purple spots and are borne in groups of 2 to 6 on stalks 7–15 millimetres (0.3–0.6 in) long. There are 5 egg-shaped, pointed sepals and 5 petals joined at their bases to form a bell-shaped tube 3.5–4.5 millimetres (0.1–0.2 in) long. The petal lobes are 4.5–5.5 millimetres (0.18–0.22 in) long making the flower diameter 15–20 millimetres (0.6–0.8 in). There are four stamens which extend slightly beyond the petal tube and the ovary is superior with 2 locules. Flowering occurs from mid-spring to mid-summer and is followed by the fruit which is a bright red drupe 6–9 millimetres (0.2–0.4 in) long.
Taxonomy and naming
Distribution and habitat
Ngaio grows very well in coastal areas of New Zealand including the Chatham Islands. It grows in lowland forest, sometimes in pure stands, others in association with other species such as nikau (Rhopalostylis sapida).
Myoporum laetum has been introduced to several other countries including Portugal, South Africa and Namibia. It is considered an invasive exotic species by the California Exotic Pest Plant Council.
The man in the moon becomes, in Māori legend, a woman, one Rona by name. This lady, it seems, once had occasion to go by night for water to a stream. In her hand she carried an empty calabash. Stumbling in the dark over stones and the roots of trees she hurt her shoeless feet and began to abuse the moon, then hidden behind clouds, hurling at it some such epithet as "You old tattooed face, there!" But the moon-goddess heard, and reaching down caught up the insulting Rona, calabash and all, into the sky. In vain the frightened woman clutched, as she rose, the tops of a ngaio-tree. The roots gave way, and Rona with her calabash and her tree are placed in the front of the moon for ever, an awful warning to all who are tempted to mock at divinities in their haste.
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