Myoporum laetum , Photo: Michael Lahanas
Myoporum laetum G. Forst.
* Myoporum tenuifolium (autctorum) G. Forst., Fl. Ins. Austr. (1786)
* G. Forst., Fl. Ins. Austr.:44 (1786)
The Ngaio or Mousehole tree (Myoporum laetum) is a tree in the family Scrophulariaceae native to New Zealand.
Ngaio is a fast growing evergreen shrub or small tree which appears dome shaped at first but as it gets older distorts as branches break off. It grows to a height of 10 metres, and bears white blossoms with purple spots from mid spring to mid summer. The bark has a brownish furrowed look.
The leaves contain small oil glands which appear as small yellow or white speckles, making the leaf quite distinguishable from those of other shrubs. The flowers are bisexual and borne on axillary cymes, corolla 5 lobed 1.5-2 cm across, ovary superior with 2 locules. The fruit is a bright red drupe 6-9 mm long.
Ngaio grows very well in coastal areas of New Zealand and towards lowland forest.
Myoporum laetum has been introduced to several other countries including Spain, Portugal, Chile, and the United States. It is considered an invasive exotic species by the California Exotic Pest Plant Council.
The Māori would rub the leaves over their skin to repel mosquitoes and sandflies
The leaves of this tree contain a liver toxin Ngaione which can cause sickness and or death in stock such as cattle, sheep and pigs.
The seed is 5-8mm in size with a light brown slightly orange colour. Stratification for 8 weeks is the recommended pre-germination seed treatment. Seeds can take a several months to germinate, but by reducing the thickness of the seeds outer coat by slightly nicking with a knife or using sandpaper, germination times can be reduced.
Propagation can be accomplished with cuttings and using a rooting hormone. Roots will start to form anywhere from 5-9 weeks.
According to Māori legend, a Ngaio tree can be seen on the moon:
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. 
1. ^ Dawson, J. & Lucas, R. Nature Guide to the New Zealand Forest, p. 116. Random House New Zealand, Glenfield, Auckland.
Source: Wikipedia , Wikispecies: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License