Coprosma brunnea

Before starting today’s entry, some of you will have perhaps noticed that most BPotD’s are being published late at night recently. We’re pushing hard here at UBC Botanical Garden to complete a redesigned web site for next week, so perhaps things will settle down soon. Also, thanks to the kind donations of BPotD readers and UBC Botanical Garden Forums participants, it looks like I’ll be able to advertise for a summer work-study position to help with BPotD. Claire Fadul, hired under the winter-spring work-study program (thanks to donations), is helping for a few more weeks. She wrote today’s entry:

This beautiful close-up of a Coprosma brunnea berry is courtesy of Liddy2007@Flickr via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Thank you Liddy!

Coprosma brunnea, the aptly-named opal berry, (many Coprosma species also have the nicknames “mirror bush” or “looking-glass bush”) is a native of New Zealand. This species is an open, mat-forming, evergreen shrub. The attractive berry is edible, though not considered sweet-tasting. The wood of this species can be used to make yellow dye.

Coprosma shares an intriguing characteristic with a few other New Zealand genera: some Coprosma have a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the palisade cell layer of leaves, stipules, and domatia. C. Van Hove and A. S. Craig investigated this phenomenon and observed that the symbiosis is not an obligate one (it doesn’t have to occur for plant survival).

Coprosma belongs to the Rubiaceae (or madder family. Rubiaceae has a world-wide distribution (though mostly tropical), and with over 600 genera and 13 000 species, it is the 4th-largest family of flowering plant ranked by species diversity. Many Rubiaceae have properties that prevent self-fertilization. In the case of Coprosma brunnea, the species is dioecious (separate male and female plants, so cross-pollination is required). To ensure development of the beautiful fruit in a cultivated environment, it is therefore necessary to have both male and female plants of this wind-pollinated species.

Coprosma brunnea

14 responses to “Coprosma brunnea”

  1. Irma in Sweden

    Eerie and beautiful!

  2. David Sacks

    When this link opened on my screen, only the top part of the picture was visible. I thought, hm, some leaves – I guess the next photo will show some interesting habit or texture or beautiful flower. Then I scrolled down a click. Wow….Just, WOW.
    When a plant displays this kind of otherworldly beauty, it always just stops me in my tracks, and gives me a lift, because the living world is just so amazingly diverse and , really, audaciously beautiful. Great photo too, capturing that mesmerizing color and beautifully speckled surface. (Reminds me a little of those big plastic bouncy balls we played with as little kids.) Thanks (once again) for a little inspiration to start the morning, BPOTD!

  3. wendy

    ‘Audaciously beautiful’ indeed! Made me think of Easter eggs. What a color.

  4. Cathy Meyer

    I look forward to Botany Photo of the Day each day – thank you! The berries on today’s entry were show-stopping.
    One helpful addition would be zone information of the featured plant. I have a large file of BPOTD plants that interest me, and although the growing habit of some are pretty obvious, I would love to know when one might thrive in my zone 5 garden.

  5. phillip

    David, the same thing happened to me, I was looking at the leaves and the nodes and about jumped when this most beautiful fruit came up..!
    Great picture, great writeup…thank you..!

  6. Eric in SF

    One of the Bay Area’s most common landscaping plants is Coprosma repens:

    The bird pick up the bright red berries and the species now grows epiphytically in the crowns of our Canary Island Date palms!

  7. Elizabeth Brodie

    Wow- that blue berry looks like a stunning jewel!!

  8. Tobi Fenton

    Sky droplets, condensed on the tip of a branch…

  9. elizabeth a airhart

    art does not reproduce what we see rather, it makes us see– warhol
    fine write up and comments thank you

  10. Meg Gaddum

    Thanks for showing off one of NZ’s many botanical treasures!

  11. Jamie

    Thank you for a lovely post.
    Do you know if it’s possible to grow one of these in the SF Bay Area?
    I’m on the Southeastern side of the city, not much fog, a lot of sun.

  12. Elizabeth Revell

    Thank you all for your comments. And thank you, too for the info about nitrogen-fixing, which is new to me.
    I have to add, they may not describe the berry as sweet, but that one wasn’t bad … yes, I ate it! Actually, the bush was a mass of fruit, so sacrificing one wasn’t endangering it.
    As to climate, it was growing in the Iris Burn Valley west of Lake Manapouri in Fjordland, which is in the south of the South Island: hot Summer and Autumn days, but High rainfall all year (up to 3 metres/year), and snow in winter – and sometimes on the hills around in the height of Summer – which I had experienced just the day before I took this photo as I walked above the treeline on the Kepler Track.

    1. Pat Wnright

      Not to take nothing away from your lovely photograph but the specimen might be C. rugosa. Was the plant you saw an upright bush or more of a sprawling tangle?

  13. Jarrod

    I have just come back from taking 38 terrestrial ecology students to the central North Island of New Zealand. Part of the trip involved a plant ID test. The lodge that we stayed at had some low scrub surrounding it which was dominated by the closely related C. propinqua. The drupes are just as stunning with the blue mottled colour, and quite tasty too. The macro of the drupe is just beautiful. Hopefully my colleague got a similarly fine shot of the C. propinqua.

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