What is a myrtle plant?

Find out what plants are affected by myrtle rust and how you can identify them

Karin van der Walt, Conservation and Science Advisor at Otari Native Botanic Garden in Wellington discusses what myrtles are and why they are important to New Zealand’s biodiversity.

All myrtles are woody, with essential oils, and evergreen leaves. The flowers have a base number of five petals, though some are minute or absent. The stamens are usually very conspicuous, brightly coloured and numerous.

A collage of trees from the myrtle family that grow in New Zealand.A collage of trees from the myrtle family that grow in New Zealand. The bottom three are all exotics. All images sourced from iNaturalist, collage courtesy of the Science Learning Hub. 

New Zealand has 37 native myrtles, including pōhutukawa and rātā, mānuka and kānuka, ramarama and swamp maire. 25 of our native species are endemic, which means that they can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

Additionally, there are many non-native myrtle species in New Zealand, including eucalypts, feijoa, bottlebrushes, lillypilly, and monkey apple. You can use Biosecurity New Zealand's Myrtle Rust ID Guide or check out the Identify myrtle rust page on this site to help identify myrtles and myrtle rust.

Find links to the most common and well-known myrtles in New Zealand below. 

Natives 

Mānuka 

Manuka plant credit Jeremy Rolfe

Kānuka

Kanuka plant credit Jeremy Rolfe

Kahikātoa

Kahikātoa plant credit Jeremy Rolfe

 Pōhutukawa 

A picture of two pohutakawa trees

Rātā 

A picture of a Rata tree

Rohutu: Lophomyrtus obcordata or Neomyrtus pedunculata

A picture of a rohutu plant

Ramarama

A picture of a ramarama plant

Swamp maire, Maire tawake

A picture of swamp maire

Exotics