Another entry written by Alexis today. She writes:
Tony Foster @ Flickr photographed these Vitex lucens flowers in Northland, New Zealand (also see a photograph of an entire tree via Wikimedia). Thank you, Tony!
First encountered by Western explorers in 1769 (by Banks and Solander), Vitex lucens, also called New Zealand teak or mahogany, is perhaps best known by its Maori name puriri. This is a tree species that is endemic to the North Island of New Zealand, where it is a constituent of coastal and lowland forests. Puriri can reach 20m in height and 1.5m in diameter and several books and online sources have described it as being a "handsome" tree. Indeed, it produces many attractive flowers that bloom in May, some of which can be spotted on the tree all year round. The flowers contain much nectar and darken in colour as they age.
Puriri timber is of great value. The dark brown wood is hard, dense and heavy, making for New Zealand's strongest and most durable timber. It has been used to construct railway ties, fence posts, and bridges (from Metcalf's The Cultivation of New Zealand Trees and Shrubs (1987)). However, this valuable wood is not without its challenges. In addition to the irregular grain that makes working with it difficult, Vitex lucens often falls victim to the puriri moth or ghost moth, Aenetus virescens, which bores 1cm diameter holes in the tree trunks (ref: Eagle's 100 Trees of New Zealand 1978)).
The Maori people had several uses for puriri. They used the wood to build weapons, garden tools, and eel traps--puriri timber is one of the few in the area dense enough to sink in water. The tree also had significance to Maori funerals; infusions made from boiling the leaves were used to cleanse and help preserve bodies, the leaves were carried or shaped into a coronet during funerals, and often puriri trees were used as burial sites.
Read more about Vitex lucens (PDF) via the National Association of Woodworkers NZ Inc.