Alectryon excelsus subsp. excelsus

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Alectryon excelsus subsp. excelsus


Alectryon: cockscomb
excelsus: tall

Common Name(s)

New Zealand ash, titoki

Current Threat Status

2012 - Not Threatened

Previous Threat Status

2009 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Alectryon excelsus Gaertn. subsp. excelsus



Brief Description

Small tree with spreading branches and a dark fluted trunk. Leaves with 3-7 offset pairs of glossy dark green leaflets. Flowers red, in small, clustered, sprays. Fruit fleshy red partly surrounding a black seed and expanding from a furry brown capsule.

Flora Category

Vascular - Native


Alectryon excelsus Gaert., Alectryon excelsus Gaertn. var. excelsus


Endemic. North and South Islands from Te Paki to Banks Peninsula


A widespread coastal to lowland forest tree. Often favouring well drained, fertile, alluvial soils along river banks and associated terraces. It is also a major component of coastal forests, particularly those developed within exposed situations or on basaltic or andesite volcanics. It is a common offshore island tree within the Hauraki Gulf. The large fruits are bird dispersed and so titoki trees often occur as a sparse components of most lowland forest types, throughout the North Island.


Tree between 10m and 20m tall. Branches stout, erect, all parts invested with fine, velutinous, ferrugineous hairs. Bark brown. Adult leaves dark green, matt when mature, imparipinnate, alternate 80-260 mm long. Leaflets 3-7 pairs; lamina 45-105 x 19-40 mm, subcoriaceous, lanceolate, oblong or narrowly-ovate, apex, subacute often acuminate, rarely obtuse; base cuneate, truncate to oblique, upper leaf surface matt; lamina margin entire or deeply serrated 1-4 times near apex. Inflorescences axillary 90-120 mm long, sparingly branched panicles. Flowers bisexual or staminate. Petals absent. Stamens 5-8 in bisexual and 6-10 in staminate flowers, crimson. Stigma ovoid, in staminate flowers ovary tholiform, style absent, in perfect flowers broadly urceolate, style 1.5-2 mm, erect. Fruits sessile, 1-2-lobed, 14-20 x 9-14 mm, pubescent, globular, carina 3-5 mm long on one side. Seed 7-10 x 4-8 mm, subglobose, black, lustrous, sarcotesta fleshy, scarlet, papillose.

Similar Taxa

Alectryon excelsus subsp. grandis (Cheeseman) de Lange et E.K.Cameron which is a smaller shrub or tree, usually with a multi-trunked habit. The leaves of subsp. grandis are very glossy (vernicose), distinctly bullate, with 2-4 pairs of broadly oblong or ovate leaflets. A. excelsus subsp. grandis is an allopatric Three Kings Islands endemic.


October - December (-June)

Main Flower Colour

Red / Pink

Other Flower Colour



November - August

Propagation Technique

Easy from fresh seed. Grows quickly in suitable conditions, preferring well drained, fertile soils in full sun or partial shade. A popular street tree, and as the fruit is bird dispersed it often naturalises in gardens from street side plantings


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 32

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Taxonomic notes

The exact status of Alectryon plants on the Poor Knights Islands needs further investigation. In some respects these plants appear intermediate between A. excelsus subsp. excelsus and subsp. grandis (de Lange et al. 1999).

Poisonous plant

The round black seeds are best avoided despite limited information on their toxicity. many plants in the same family are poisonous. Click on this link for more information about Poisonous native plants.

References and further reading

Cameron, E.K. 1998. Frost resistance in titoki Alectryon. Auckland Botanical Society Journal 53: 15.

de Lange, P.J.; Cameron, E.K.; Murray, B.G. 1999: Alectryon excelsus subsp. grandis (Sapindaceae): a new combination for an uncommon small tree endemic to the Three Kings Islands, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Botany 37: 7-16.

Duguid, F. 1961. Flowering in titoki. Wellington Botanical Society Bulletin 32: 16

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 11 Nov 2014

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