Myrsine umbricola


Myrsine: myrrh
umbricola: Dweller of shady places

Current Conservation Status

2018 - At Risk - Declining

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2012 - Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable
2009 - Threatened - Nationally Critical
2004 - Not Threatened


2012 - DP, RF, RR
2009 - DP, RF, RR


Myrsine umbricola Heenan et de Lange



Brief Description

Rare spreading shrub with many wide-angled only slightly weeping twigs bearing small dark spotted oval leaves that are notched at the tip and with a dark blotch at the base inhabiting the southern Tararua Range. Leaves 11-22mm long by 7-11mm wide, wavy-edged or with a more or less obvious notch.

Flora Category

Vascular - Native

Structural Class

Dicotyledonous Trees & Shrubs




Endemic. At present known only from the southern portion of the Tararua Ranges, in the North Island. However, it was only recognised as distinct in 2003, plants having been previously regarded as shade forms of M. divaricata A.Cunn., a species with which M. umbricola is widely sympatric. As past literature refers to M. divaricata as a widespread species of the Tararua Ranges, it is probable that these records may in part refer to M. umbricola as well. Myrsine umbricola should also be looked for in similar habitats in the Ruahine Ranges.


Silver beech (Nothofagus menziesii (Hook.f.) Oerst.) cloud forest from c.800-1200 m. Growing on terracettes, colluvium and around the margins at the bases of rotational slump scars.


Dioecious, shrub up 4 x 4-5 m. Trunks 1-5, these slender. Branchlets horizontal, somewhat spreading. Branchlets, non-divaricating, spreading to upright, usually crowded and leafy. Adult leaves 11-22 x 7-11 mm, dark green, glossy, usually with a narrow brown blotch at lamina base, obovate, oblong-obovate, leaf entire apex entire or slightly retuse. Flowers axillary, solitary or in fascicles of 2-4. Female flowers sparse, often solitary, with 4 sepals and 4 petals, petals free, 1.3-1.6 x 1-1.1 mm, broadly elliptic, light green, cream or flushed maroon at margins. Style 0.2 mm, stigma 0.6-0.8 x 0.6-0.8 mm, stamens rudimentary. Male flowers solitary or in fascicles of up to 4. petals 4(-5), 2-2.5 x 1.4-1.6 mm, obovate, stamens with anthers 1.1-1.4 x 0.6-1 mm, gynoecium rudimentary. Fruit a circular purple or violet drupe 3.4-5.3 x 3.4-5.2 mm.

Similar Taxa

M. umbricola differs from M. aquilonia de Lange et Heenan and M. coxii Cockayne, by its non suckering, smaller stature and broader spread, more slender trunks and horizontal branching pattern, narrower, entire to weakly retuse, very glossy leaves which usually have a narrow brown blotch at the leaf base petiole junction.



Flower Colours




Propagation Technique

The propagation requirements of this recent (2003) discovery are as yet unclear. Seedlings transplanted from the wild to assist with the formal description of this species have proved slow to grow but once established have grown very quickly. This species appears to dislike dry conditions. It should be easy to grow from fresh seed.


Locally abundant but most populations seen comprise adult plants only. Seedlings are scarce, and those that have been found show clear signs that they are browsed heavily by deer. Because the known populations are small, several are close to or already moribund, recruitment is virtually absent, and at some sites hybrids out number pure plants, M. umbricola is regarded as seriously threatened. Since its formal description in December 2004, further populations have been found though none are large or free from the same threats.

Chromosome No.

2n = 46

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Not commercially available.


Fact Sheet Prepared by P.J. de Lange (1 November 2009). Description based on Heenan & de Lange (2004) - see also de Lange et al (2010).

References and further reading

de Lange, P.J.; Heenan, P.B.; Norton, D.A.; Rolfe, J.R.; Sawyer, J.W.D. 2010: Threatened Plants of New Zealand. Canterbury University Press, Christchurch.

Heenan, P.B.; de Lange, P.J. 2004: Myrsine aquilonia and M. umbricola (Myrsinaceae), two new species from New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Botany 42: 753-769

This page last updated on 7 May 2014