Macropiper excelsum, Kawa-Kawa New Zealand Pepper seeds
Macropiper excelsum belongs to the family of the Piperaceae, the pepper family. It is native to New Zealand. It is endemic there meaning that it occurs only there. Due to that fact M. excelsum is also known as New Zealand pepper. Furthermore the Maoris, the natives of New Zealand call the plant Kawakawa. “Kawa” means bitter referring to the leaves that have a quite bitter taste. The New Zealand pepper grows as a shrub that can get 3 m high. The leaves of the Kawakawa are heart- shaped and dark green to yellowish green. The color of the leaves depends from the place where the plant grows. If the plant is exposed to light the leaves are lighter. The venation of the leaves is clearly visible. They get 5 to 10 cm long. The leaves of the New Zealand pepper are very aromatic. Sadly they are often eaten by insects and are hence clustered with holes. The flowers of Kawakawa stand together in spikes. The spikes get 7 cm long. The flowers are small, whitish to greenish. M. excelsum is dioecious meaning that male and female flowers are on different individuals. One needs always two plants for reproduction. The female plant bears the orange fruits that are eaten by birds that distribute the seeds in that way. The sweet fruits of Kawakawa are also edible for humans but they have diuretic effect. One should not eat too much of the sweet fruits. The Maori use the seeds of the New Zealand pepper as a spice. It is related to Piper nigrum that is normally used as a spice. In addition the leaves are used to produce tea. The tea shall help against bladder inflammation. The fresh leaves can be eaten raw and shall help against toothache and stomachache. M. excelsum has an anti inflammatory effect. The Maori also like the exhilarating effect of the plant. They mix a drink that can cause hallucination. But one should be carefully with such mixes.
The seeds of M. excelsum need a pretreatment. They should be put for 24h into warm water. After that they need a cold period. Therfore the seeds in the substrate should be put for about 1,5 months into the fridge. After that they should be placed sunny. At a temperature of about 24°C and constantly moist substrate, germination occurs after 1 month. The germination time can vary.
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