Coprosma tenuifolia


Coprosma: from the Greek kopros 'dung' and osme 'smell', referring to the foul smell of the species, literally 'dung smell'
tenuifolia: thin, slender leaves

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Not Threatened

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

2009 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Coprosma tenuifolia Cheeseman



Brief Description

Large shrub bearing pairs of mottled wavy leaves that taper to a narrow point. Twigs green flecked with red. Leaves 7-11cm with a thin dark-tipped and usually hair fringed sheath around stem at base of leaves. Fruit orange or red, in short clusters.

Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class

Dicotyledonous Trees & Shrubs


None (first described in 1886)


Endemic. North Islands from Mt Pirongia and East Cape south to the Tararua Ranges.


Lowland to montane forest especially on alluvium and other base-rich soils. In the northern part of its range it is exclusively montane


Rather slender shrub or tree up to c. 5 m tall, with stout glabrous ascending branches and branchlets. Leaves on slender pubescent petioles 10-25 mm long. Stipules broad-oblong, connate, obtuse, more or less ciliolate; denticle prominent, stout, acute to acuminate. Lamina membranous to thinly coriaceous, pubescent above on midrib, 70-110 × 30-45 mm, dull dark green, red-green or variously blotched, tinged or blemished with red, maroon or purple, ovate to oblong, acute, usually apiculate, rather abruptly narrowed into petiole; margins slightly wavy, sometimes crenulate. Reticulated veins fine, evident. Male flowers in clusters of 2-3 on short branchlets; calyx 0; corolla subcampanulate, lobes short, acute. Female flowers in clusters of opposite pairs, on short leafy branchlets; calyx-teeth short, ciliolate; corolla tubular, lobes short, acute. Drupe orange, ovoid, 7-8 mm long.

Similar Taxa

The allopatric sister species of the Raoul Island endemic Coprosma acutifolia from which it differs by its larger ( 70-110 × 30-45 mm), ovate to oblong, acute, usually apiculate leaves which are dull dark green, red-green or variously blotched, tinged or blemished with red, maroon or purple. The leaves of Coprosma acutifolia are 60-90 × 20-35 mm, yellow-green, often mottled with dark green, narrow-ovate, ovate, ovate-elliptic to lanceolate, acuminate. The peduncles of Coprosma tenuifolia are unbranched while those of C. acutrifolia are pedicellate (branched). The fruits of Coprosma acutifolia are oblong and orange red rather than ovoid and orange. Both species hybridise readily when grown together in cultivation.


November - January

Flower Colours



March - May

Propagation Technique

An attractive shrub to small tree on account of its colourful foliage. It does well in a shaded situation planted in a permanently damp, free draining, fertile soil. Despite its attractive foliage Coprosma tenuifolia is rarely seen in cultivation.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 44

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Fleshy drupes are dispersed by frugivory (Thorsen et al., 2009).

Where To Buy

Occasionally available from specialist native plant nurseries.


Fact Sheet prepared by P.J. de Lange (10 January 2007): Description adapted from Allan (1961)

References and further reading

Allan, H.H. 1961: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. I, Government Printer, Wellington.

Thorsen, M. J.; Dickinson, K. J. M.; Seddon, P. J. 2009. Seed dispersal systems in the New Zealand flora. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 11: 285-309

This page last updated on 18 Nov 2014