Scientific name: Coriaria arborea and other Coriaria spp.
  • Key characteristics
  • Biology
  • Impacts
  • Control
  • Further information

‘Tutu’ commonly refers to a number of species. The most common and largest is tree tutu (Coriaria arborea), a large shrub or small tree to 4 m high. The others are upright or sprawling shrubs with rhizomatous roots. It is reputed to be New Zealand’s most poisonous plant.

Key characteristics

  • Shiny, dark-green leaves in many pairs on long, upright or trailing stems
  • The numerous flowers are small and green and occur on long drooping racemes
  • The fruits are small, dark red to black berries
  • Commonly found in bush margins, scrub, stream banks and other broken ground.


  • All species found in New Zealand are native
  • Other species of the genus Coriaria occur throughout the Pacific and neighbouring countries, except Australia.


  • Tutu is found throughout New Zealand from coastal to sub-alpine regions.

Life cycle

  • All species are rhizomatous, spreading, evergreen perennials except for tree tutu, which is a non-rhizomatous, evergreen tree. Tutu are prolific seed producers and the seeds, dispersed by birds, can quickly spread tutu over a wide area.
  • Almost all parts of all tutu species are highly toxic including the pollen. Honey made from the nectar has poisoned several people and stock regularly die from eating the leaves
  • Livestock avoid grazing fresh plants, although they are particularly attracted to cut and wilted leaves.


  • Tutu concoctions were possibly widely used in Maori medicine. Mixtures with different plants were used to treat insanity, used as a laxative and more commonly as dressings for skin wounds and broken bones.
  • The juice from tutu fruit is reputedly less toxic and was used in some Maori recreational drinks.

Impacts on pasture

  • Generally, not invasive of permanent pasture but sometimes a weed of broken hill country
  • May interfere with access tracks in hill country.

Impacts on forage crops

  • Rarely a problem in forage crops.

Impacts on stock

  • Highly toxic to all stock and humans
  • The cut, wilted leaves are particularly attractive to stock resulting in frequent poisoning
  • Nectar and pollen are also toxic causing a problem for beekeepers.

Grazing and cultural management

  • Cutting and stump painting with herbicide is an effective control.

Chemical control

  • Tutu may be controlled with any of the brush killer herbicides.