Tetragonia tetragonoides

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Tetragonia tetragonoides


Tetragonia: four-angled

Common Name(s)

kokihi, New Zealand spinach, tutae-ikamoana

Current Threat Status

2012 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon

Previous Threat Status

2009 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon
2004 - Sparse


2012 - EF, SO, Sp
2009 - EF, SO


Tetragonia tetragonoides (Pall.) Kuntze





Flora Category

Vascular - Native


Demidovia tetragonioides Pall., Tetragonia cornuta Gaertn., Tetragonia expansa Murray nom. illegit., Tetragonia halimifolia G.Forst., Tetragonia inermis F.Muell. Tetragonia tetragonioides


Indigenous. Kermadec, Three Kings, North, South, Stewart and Chatham Islands. Also present in Australia, the western Pacific, Malesia, Japan and southern South America.


A species of the coastal strand zone often growing along beaches amongst driftwood, and sea weed but also in sand dunes, on boulder and cobble beaches, on cliff faces and rock ledges and in some areas such as the Kermadec Islands an conspicuous and important associated of the vegetationof many of the outer islands in the archipelago. Partly because it has been cultivated as a vegetable this species often appears in landfills or as a casual weed of urban areas. Indeed some wild occurrences near urban coastal settlements may stem from discarded plants or seed in garden waste.


Widely trailing perennial herb forming dense patches, circular mats, or rarely mounds of interlacing branches up to 1 m thick. Branches up to 1 m long, bright to dark green or yellow green, subterete, numerous, woody near base, decumbent, trailing not or only rarely rooting at nodes. Petioles firmly fleshy up to 20 mm long. Leaves 15-80 x 10-60 mm, dark green to yellow green, darker above and paler beneath, ovate-rhomboid, rhomboid to triangular, obtuse to subacute, entire or rarely slightly sinuate or shallowly lobed, both surfaces very densely though finely papillose. Flowers solitary or paired, mostly perfect sometimes unisexual, subsessile, 7-8 mm diameter, perianth dark yellow to pale yellow (rarely yellow-green). Calyx-tube broadly turbinate, lobes broad-triangular, obtuse. Stamens variable but between 10-20. Ovary 3-8-celled, styles 3-8. Fruit 8-10(15) mm long, subturbinate, angled, woody horns 2-4 apical, sharp to blunted-ended, seeds 4-10.

Similar Taxa

Tetragonia implexicoma (Miq.) Hook.f. is similar but has reddish stems, more usually broadly ovate or deltoid leaves, distinctly pedicellate flowers and globose rather than turbinate, succulent rather than woody, red fruits lacking horns.



Main Flower Colour


Other Flower Colour



November - March

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from seed and once established self-sows freely. A moderately popular vegetable whose seed is sold as New Zealand Spinach. Frost tender but once established usually resprouts from the base when warmer weather returns.


It is threatened by disturbance of coastal sands and stony beaches.

Chromosome No.

2n = 96

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Seed and plants often sold by main stream garden centres, often in the herb section or as a New Zealand vegetable.

References and further reading

Allan, H.H. 1961: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. I. Wellington, Government Printer.

Wilcox, M.D. New Zealand spinach in Mangere. Auckland Botanical Society Journal, 56: 82 

This page last updated on 4 Mar 2015

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