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NZ Plants

Piper excelsum - kawakawa

Pepper family: Piperaceae

Piper excelsum is a densely branched shrub with fleshy, aromatic  heart-shaped leaves.  The stems are swollen where the leaves are attached (the nodes) giving them a distinctive ‘jointed’ appearance. Tiny flowers are compactly arranged on short spikes. Formerly known as Macropiper excelsum. The genus Piper has around 2,000 species with a pan tropical distribution.
An endemic species found in lowland forest throughout New Zealand.

Vegetative characteristics

Reproductive characteristics

Plant form: shrub up to 6 m

Arrangement of parts: symmetric


Flower size: 2-3 mm diam.

Leaf form: undivided, circular, heart-shaped

Sepals: 0

Leaf size: 50-120 mm

Petals: 0

Leaf arrangement: singly along stem

Sexuality: unisexual

Leaf attachment: sheathing; stipules

Stamens: 2-3

Leaf margin: smooth

Ovary: above petals

Leaf surface: hairless

Fruit: fleshy