Griselinia is a genus of seven species of shrubs and trees, with a highly disjunct distribution native to New Zealand and South America. It is a classic example of the Antarctic flora. It is the sole genus in the family Griseliniaceae; in the past it was often placed in Cornaceae but differs from that in many features.

Griselinia littoralis foliage and flowers
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Apiales
Family: Griseliniaceae
Genus: Griselinia
Type species
Griselinia lucida
J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.[2]

Griselinia carlomunozii
Griselinia jodinifolia
Griselinia littoralis
Griselinia lucida
Griselinia racemosa
Griselinia ruscifolia
Griselinia scandens


Small dioecious trees or shrubs up to 20 m with erect branches, or shrubs up to 2 m with climbing or scandent branches. The leaves are evergreen, thick and leathery, smooth and glossy above, often paler below. The flowers are very small, with five sepals and stamens and a single stigma, borne on terminal or axillary racemes or panicles. Petals 23 mm long. However, the female flower of G.lucida has no petals. The fruit is a small red or purple oval berry 510 mm long.[3]

Chemical characteristics

Petroselinic acid occurs as the major fatty acid in the species, indicating a relationship to the Apiaceae and the Araliaceae.[4] Recent genetic evidence from the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group has shown that Griselinia is correctly placed in the Apiales.[5]

New Zealand species

The two New Zealand species are large shrubs or trees, from 4–20 m (13–66 ft) tall. Both trees can be epiphytic or hemiepiphytic. The young tree often colonizes amongst other epiphytes like Collospermum and Astelia high in the forest canopy, before growing aerial roots down the trunk of its host. Upon contact with the ground the roots can become large up to 25 cm (10 in) thick, and are easily identified for their heavy lengthwise corrugations. G. lucida seldom becomes a freestanding tree if having begun life epiphytically, and can often be seen to have collapsed where the host has died. Epiphytic growth in G. littoralis is less common but does occur in wetter climates.

The vernacular names are of Māori origin.

  • G. littoralis Kapuka; leaves 6 cm (2 in) long.
  • G. lucida Puka, akapuka, shining broadleaf; differs from G. littoralis in larger leaves, to 12 cm (5 in) long.

South American species

The five South American species are smaller shrubs, 15 m tall. All are known as Yelmo.

  • G. carlomunozii coastal northern Chile (Antofagasta)
  • G. jodinifolia Chile
  • G. racemosa southern Chile (Los Lagos, Aisén) and adjacent Argentina (western Chubut)
  • G. ruscifolia Argentina, Chile, southeast Brazil
  • G. scandens central and southern Chile


  1. Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2016). "An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG IV". Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 181 (1): 1–20. doi:10.1111/boj.12385.
  2. IPNI (2022). "Griselinia J.R.Forst. & G.Forst". International Plant Names Index (IPNI). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; Harvard University Herbaria & Libraries; Australian National Botanic Gardens. Retrieved 24 December 2022.
  3. Dillon, M.O. (2018). "Griseliniaceae". In Kadereit, J.W.; Bittrich, V. (eds.). Flowering Plants: Eudicots: Apiales, Gentianales (except Rubiaceae). The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants. Vol. XV. pp. 505–509. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-93605-5.
  4. B. Breuer; T. Stuhlfauth; H. Fock; H. Huber (1987). "Fatty acids of some cornaceae, hydrangeaceae, aquifoliaceae, hamamelidaceae and styracaceae". Phytochemistry. 26 (5): 1441–1445. doi:10.1016/S0031-9422(00)81830-0.
  5. Maas, P.J.M. & Maas-van de Kamer, H. (2012). Neotropical Griseliniaceae. In: Milliken, W., Klitgård, B. & Baracat, A. (2009 onwards), Neotropikey - Interactive key and information resources for flowering plants of the Neotropics.
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