Found throughout New Zealand in lowland to montane forest and scrub up to subalpine altitudes, it is particularly common on damp, disturbed forest margins and roadside clearings.
Aristotelia serrata is also present in South America and Australia. Maori used the plant in several ways; soaking the leaves in a porous bag in a hot bath to relieve backache and also eating the berries. Early European settlers made both jelly and wine from the berries.
A small tree up to 10 m high with a trunk up to 30 cm diameter, which has a shiny reddish bark that is smooth with corky stripes. Its purplish sharply toothed leaves are broad and thin - about 5-12 cm long - and grow on long stalks opposite one another along the branch. It has many small flowers which change colour from white to pink to red during spring to early summer, the berries following in late spring to early summer are about 5 mm long, bright red to almost black.
Aristotelia serrata grows very quickly, particularly in rich soil, usually reaching a height of 3-4 m in a garden situation. It is very hardy, tolerating full sun to moderate shade, wind and frost, and damp through to quite dry conditions. It can also be pruned to any shape or height.
Use either as an underplanting among larger trees, or as a specimen shrub with underplantings of ground ferns and grasses. Also suitable for hedging or in border plantings between a garden and larger area of native forest.