One of kukupa's favourite foods
TARAIRE – Beilschmiedia tarairi
Family – Lauraciae
A common understory tree in kauri forest, taraire can grow to 22 metres and is found throughout the modern kauri range, and as far south a East Cape. Mostly it grows in reasonable quality soils, often close to streams, it produces rich coloured, fat, purple fruit that ripen in late autumn. These are very popular with kūkupa (pigeons), which gorge themselves on the drupes when they near full ripeness.
The relationship between taraire and kūkupa is crucial to the tree, as these birds are the only ones capable of swallowing the fruit and its stone, making it taraire’s the sole distributor.
One of the most handsome of trees in the forest, slender and gangly when young, it has lovely proportions in maturity, with spreading branches and a straight strong trunk. Glossy green leaves are evenly shaped and up to 15 cm long, and 8 cm wide, with matt, blue-green undersides. Leaf veins, new growth, flower-stalks and petioles are all coated in a light red-coloured velvet substance known as tomentum.
Maori also once ate taraire berries, but they required almost two days of preparation by steaming.
The timber of taraire is light coloured, pretty and easily worked but is not especially resilient.