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Knightia excelsa - R.Br.

Common Name Rewarewa
Family Proteaceae
USDA hardiness 8-11
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Lowland to montane forest in North Island and on the northern tip of South Island[173].
Range New Zealand.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (0 of 5)
Half Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Knightia excelsa Rewarewa

Knightia excelsa Rewarewa


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Knightia excelsa is an evergreen Tree growing to 20 m (65ft) by 4 m (13ft).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 9 and is frost tender. It is in leaf all year, in flower from July to August. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.



Woodland Garden Canopy; Secondary; Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Nectar.
Edible Uses:

The flowers are very rich in nectar, this can be extracted and used as food. It contains about 45% sugars[173].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

None known

Other Uses


Wood - handsomely variegated. Highly valued for superior woodwork, inlay etc[1].

Cultivation details

Succeeds in any well-drained fertile soil in sun or semi-shade[200]. Requires protection from cold and drying winds[200]. Plants tolerate very light and short-lived frosts, but they are best with a minimum winter temperature of about 3°c[200]. Another report says that trees are hardy in south Cornwall[1]. A very good bee plant[173].


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Seed - sow spring in a warm greenhouse[188]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants


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Botanical References


Links / References

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Readers comment

david n   Fri May 26 13:33:33 2000

The rotting wood of Knightia excelsa glows in the dark (!!!) according to a facinating book by Murdoch Riley (Maori Healing and Herbal- New Zealand Ethnobotanical sourcebook) This seems remarkable to me, appaently some people used to light their houses with it.

I wonder if there are other trees that do this. Only works when wet, a wet light source, sounds safe, in terms of fire at least.

I've lived in New Zealand most of my life, it's the 1st I've heard of this. Will be testing it asap.

It is usually a very good looking plant.

I planted a knightia in a very exposed spot with occasional salt spray it is a little disfigured, lopsided but growing well, they look better with moderate exposure. Takes some frost.

david   Tue Aug 29 13:38:58 2000

Update on above comment:

I've been unable to produce any light from experiments with rotting Knightia wood in jars indoors so far. I've checked the Encylopaedia Britannica on bioluminesence, it says no true plant is known to be bioluminesent.It seems most likely a luminous bacteria or fungi was at work, perhaps one with relationship with Knightia. The report could be inaccurate of course, the are two luminous creatures around NZ streams (the one I've seen, glow worm, is too weak to use for lighting) which may have been involved.

Still, bioluminesence could be worth exploring for organic self reliance simplicity safety reasons even though it does not, unfortunately, seem to fit exactly into the category of plants.

Graham Clark   Wed Dec 27 2006

I would imagine that it is not the decaying timber that is phosphorescent but the fungal body responcible for the decay !

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