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A genus of about ninety species found mainly in the lands bordering the S.W. Pacific from New Zealand (with about forty-five species) to Borneo; it is also represented in many of the smaller islands of the Pacific. They are shrubs, sometimes dwarf, more rarely trees, with evergreen, opposite leaves. The small, rather inconspicuous flowers have the petals united into a tube, with the stamens inserted on the corolla, and are prevailingly unisexual, the male and female flowers being borne on separate plants (dioecious). This characteristic limits their usefulness in gardens, since it is for the brightly coloured, fleshy fruits that they are grown. There is, however, much variability in this respect even within a single species: flowers of each sex may be found on one plant and even hermaphrodite flowers have been observed.
For the taxonomist, the New Zealand coprosmas are a very confusing group, owing to the readiness with which they hybridise in the wild and the various forms one and the same species may assume in response to the conditions of its habitat.
In addition to the species described here, mention must be made of C. lucida J. R. & G. Forst., which is very tender but is sometimes grown outdoors in very mild gardens of the British Isles. It is a medium sized shrub with glossy green leaves up to 5 in. long and fruits of a vivid orange colour.
A large number of species, cultivars and hybrids of Coprosma are grown by Graham Hutchins at the County Park Nursery, Hornchurch, Essex, some collected by himself in the wild, the others received from New Zealand gardeners and botanists.
In addition to C. lucida, another tender species in cultivation is C. repens A. Rich., better known under the erroneous name C. baueri. The true species C. baueri Endl. is a native of Norfolk Island and probably not in cultivation. C. repens is prostrate only in exposed localities, being normally a large shrub or even a tree, with thick, glossy, broad-elliptic to oblong-***obovate leaves. It is best known for its two old variegated forms ‘Picturata’, in which the leaves have a central patch of creamy yellow or yellowish green, and ‘Variegata’, in which they are margined with creamy yellow. ‘Coppershine’ is one of several hybrids of C. repens raised by W. B. Brockie in the Otari Botanic Garden, New Zealand (L. J. Metcalf, Cultivation of N.Z. Trees and Shrubs, p. 73 (1972)).