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myoporum, ngaio tree


Habit Shrubs or trees, broadly spreading, 30–100 dm. Shrubs or trees; stolons absent.

ascending to prostrate, much branched;

twig tips and young leaves bronze green, sticky.

ascending to prostrate, glabrous.


blade bright green, lanceolate, 5–12.5 × 1.5–3 cm, margins finely serrate distal to middle, embedded glands conspicuous.

persistent, cauline, alternate, rarely opposite, with embedded, translucent glands;

stipules absent;

petiole present [absent];

blade fleshy or not, leathery or not, margins entire or serrate.


axillary, in clusters [flowers solitary];

bracts absent.



bracteoles absent.


2–4 per axil;

corolla white with purple spots on lobes and distal tube, tube 3.5–4.5 mm, lobes equal, 4–5.5 mm, densely long-hairy adaxially;

anthers well exserted from tube;

ovary smooth.


sepals 5, calyx radially or bilaterally symmetric, campanulate, lobes oblong;

petals 5, corolla white [pale purple], spotted with purple [orange-brown to yellow or unspotted], radially or bilaterally symmetric, campanulate, abaxial lobes 3, adaxial 2, lobes glabrous [pubescent] abaxially, variously pubescent adaxially;

stamens 4–8, adnate to corolla, equal, filaments hairy [glabrous], staminode 0;

ovary [2–]4[–6]-locular, placentation apical;

stigma capitate or 2–5-lobed.


drupelike capsules, ovoid to globular, fleshy [dry].


pale to dark reddish purple, ovoid, 5–10 mm.


oblong, 3–3.5 mm.

1–4, white to pale brown, ovoid to oblong or ellipsoid, wings absent.


= 18.


= 108 (New Zealand).

Myoporum laetum


Phenology Flowering (Jan–)Mar–Aug.
Habitat Open areas in grasslands, scrub, riparian habitats, generally coastal.
Elevation 0–500 m. (0–1600 ft.)
from FNA
CA; Pacific Islands (New Zealand) [Introduced in North America; introduced also in s South America (Argentina, Uruguay)]
[WildflowerSearch map]
[BONAP county map]
from USDA
Indian Ocean Islands; Pacific Islands; Australia [Introduced, Calif.; introduced also in s South America]
[BONAP county map]

Myoporum laetum is commonly cultivated in coastal areas of California. Although first collected outside of cultivation in 1949, it was not recognized as an introduced element of local and regional floras until the 1970s. It has naturalized mostly in southern California to San Luis Obispo County with some populations north along the coast to the San Francisco Bay area.

Myoporum insulare R. Brown, also cultivated in California, is similar to M. laetum, and some reports of M. laetum are possibly M. insulare. Myoporum insulare has leaves that are lighter green when young, and the translucent glands of the mature leaves are less conspicuous. The flowers are slightly smaller with anthers that are only slightly exserted from the tubes, and the fruits are smaller and globular.

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

Species ca. 30 (3 in the flora).

Myoporum species have been introduced for ground cover or hedges in coastal or low rainfall regions of many countries, especially M. insulare R. Brown, M. laetum, and M. montanum R. Brown. The gall-inducing thrip Klambothrips myopori, native to Australia, has recently been introduced to California and is causing substantial damage to Myoporum species used in landscaping (L. A. Mound and D. C. Morris 2007). The leaves and fruits of M. laetum and other Myoporum species are toxic to livestock; they contain ngaione, a furanoid sesquiterpene that causes photosensitization and liver damage (G. S. Richmond and E. L. Ghisalberti 1995; K. Parton and A. N. Bruere 2002).

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

1. Shrubs, prostrate; leaf blades narrowly oblanceolate, 2–4 cm; capsules white to pale brown.
M. parvifolium
1. Shrubs or trees, broadly spreading; leaf blades narrowly elliptic to lanceolate, 5–14 cm; capsules pale to dark reddish purple.
→ 2
2. Leaf blades lanceolate, margins finely serrate distal to middle, glands conspicuous; flowers 2–4 per axil; anthers well exserted from tube; ovaries smooth.
M. laetum
2. Leaf blades narrowly elliptic, tapering proximally and distally, margins entire, glands inconspicuous; flowers 6–8 per axil; anthers slightly exserted from tube; ovaries rugose.
M. acuminatum
Source FNA vol. 17, p. 336. FNA vol. 17, p. 335. Author: Robert E. Preston.
Parent taxa Scrophulariaceae > Myoporum Scrophulariaceae
Sibling taxa
M. acuminatum, M. parvifolium
Subordinate taxa
M. acuminatum, M. laetum, M. parvifolium
Name authority G. Forster: Fl. Ins. Austr., 44. (1786) Solander ex G. Forster: Fl. Ins. Austr., 44. (1786)
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