In the bush, it‘s as if toropapa is hiding in plain sight - the appearance of its foliage blends in with the plants around it. But follow your nose when it’s flowering, and you’ll find this small shrub. There are five species, with variation in the shape of the glossy green leaves. The one pictured was labelled Alseuosmia quercifolia (the leaves didn’t look much like oak leaves to me, but the shape of oak leaves does vary too, depending on the species.)
Alseuosmia apparently means “perfume of the grove.” While the flowering of toropapa is said to be erratic, when they do appear the clusters of small (up to 4cm) cream to pink trumpet shaped flowers really do the job. They have a lovely perfume - it can seem to fill the air. And toropapa can flower for months through winter and into spring in a good year. Lovely.
Toropapa has bright red berries, described as sweet tasting (and therefore edible!) But whether they have viable seed is related to the presence of plenty of nectar feeding birds, who presumably pollinate the flowers while drinking the nectar from the flowers. And alas, in many areas there is little viable seed because the numbers of these birds has plummeted. We haven’t just lost their song.
Toropapa, or karapapa - another Maori name for it, grows in places that are shaded and cool and moist but not water-logged. If these conditions are provided, it can be grown as a rather shy but lovely garden plant.