Scientific Name:
Fuscospora fusca (Hook.f.) Heenan & Smissen, Phytotaxa 146: 14 (2013)
  • Fagus fusca Hook.f., Icon. Pl. 7, t. 630 – 631 (1844)
  • Nothofagus fusca (Hook.f.) Oerst., Kongel. Danske Vidensk. Selsk. Skr., Naturvidensk. Math. Afd. 9: 355 (1871)
Lectotype (designated by Allan 1961): New Zealand. Without locality, no date, W. Colenso 1767 (K, image).
From Latin fusca (dark -coloured); referring to the dark, nearly black bark on mature trees.
Vernacular Name(s):
red beech; tāwhairaunui

Large tree (15–)24–30(–40) m high; trunk straight and cylindrical, 1.5–2.0(–3.0) m in diameter, usually with heavy basal flanges and root buttresses; crown massive and spreading. Young branchlets terete, grooved, red-brown to dark red, with whitish pubescence. Stipules caducous, peltate, basally bilobed or entire, 4.0–11.0 mm long, oblong to narrow oblanceolate. Leaf lamina, 12–45(–55) × 7.0–35(–40) mm, broadly ovate, broad elliptic-ovate, rhomboid-ovate to sub-orbicular, thin coriaceous, veins distinct, often with 1 or 2 fringed domatia in basal axils; adaxially glossy green, often reddish, glabrescent; abaxially lighter green to red, glabrescent; margin coarsely serrate, teeth twisted and apiculate, shortly ciliate in sinuses; apex obtuse to acute; base oblique; petiole 2–8 mm long, pubescent. Staminate inflorescences, 3–5/branchlet, on peduncles 2.0–6.5 mm long; 1–3 flowers/dichasium, sessile or on short pedicels to 1.5 mm long; perianth campanulate, 4.0–6.2 mm long, glabrous or hairy, stramineous often tinged red or pink, with 3–5 prominent obtuse to acute lobes, margin glabrous. Stamens 6–20; filaments 3.0–6.0 mm long, glabrous; anthers 3.5–5.0 mm long, glabrous, yellow or red. Pistillate inflorescences, 1–3/branchlet, sessile or subsessile; dichasium, ovoid to globose, with (2)–3 sessile flowers/cupule, flowers trimerous and dimerous, sparsely hairy. Mature cupule woody, 5–8 mm long; valves 4, broadly ovate to triangular, coriaceous, resinous, strigulose, apex acute to attenuate; lamellae 2 or 3/valve, acute to attenuate. Nut 5.5–8 × 3.5–6.5 mm, triquetrous or lenticular, sparsely hairy to pubescent, winged, red-brown to brown.

Bark and wood: Bark on young trees smooth, thin and grey-white to light brown; bark on old trees thick, fibrous, large-scaled and furrowed, brown to dark-brown. Sapwood pink or red to light yellow when fresh; heartwood dark red when fresh.

Juvenile leaves: Often smaller than adult leaves, broad ovate to rhomboid-ovate, lamina thinner and more coarsely toothed, often red or red speckled.


Most similar to Fuscospora truncata, and distinguished from that species by thin leaves with apiculate lamina teeth that are noticeably twisted and also with the lamina tapering obliquely to the base, whereas hard beech has blunt lamina teeth that are not distinctly twisted and with the lamina tapering equally to the base. Also, red beech commonly has 1 or 2 fringed domatia in the axils of the midrib and lower secondary veins on the abaxial side of the lamina; domatia are absent in F. truncata and all other southern beech species in New Zealand except for Lophozonia menziesii.


North Island: South Auckland (Kaimai Range south of Te Aroha, Mamaku Range, Raukūmara Range, Urewera National Park, Hauhungaroa Range, Kaimanawa Range, Kaweka Range), Volcanic Plateau, Wellington (Tararua, Rimutaka and Aorangi Ranges).

South Island: Nelson, Marlborough, Westland, Canterbury, Otago (inland Lakes District), Southland, Fiordland.


Altitudinal range, sea-level–1190 m a.s.l. (at Potae, Ruahine Range). Lowland to montane forest. Found in pure stands in inland valleys on colluvial soils of mid-slope between 400 and 850 m. Also, commonly in association in mixed broadleaf-conifer forests and with other beech species on slopes and river terraces, and particularly with Lophozonia menziesii.

Indigenous (Endemic)

Flowering: Sep.–Dec. (mast seeding)

Bjerke, J.W. 2004: A new sorediate, fumarprotocetraric acid-producing lichen species of Menegazzia (Parmeliaceae, Ascomycota) from New Zealand. Systematics and Biodiversity 2(1): 45–47. [as Nothofagus fusca (Hook.f.) Oerst.]
de Lange, P.J.; Rolfe, J.R.; Barkla J.W.; Courtney, S.P.; Champion, P.D.; Perrie, L.R.; Beadel, S.N.; Ford, K.A.; Breitwieser, I.; Schönberger, I.; Hindmarsh-Walls, R.; Heenan, P.B.; Ladley, K. 2018: Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2017. New Zealand Threat Classification Series. No. 22. [Not Threatened]
de Lange, P.J.; Rolfe, J.R.; Champion, P.D.; Courtney, S.P.; Heenan, P.B.; Barkla, J.W.; Cameron, E.K.; Norton, D.A.; Hitchmough, R.A. 2013: Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012. New Zealand Threat Classification Series 3. Department of Conservation, Wellington. [as Nothofagus fusca (Hook.f.) Oerst.] [Not Threatened]
Du Rietz, G.E. 1930: On domatia in the genus Nothofagus . Svensk Botanisk Tidskrift 24: 4.
Heenan, P.B.; Smissen, R.D. 2013: Revised circumscription of Nothofagus and recognition of the segregate genera Fuscospora, Lophozonia, and Trisyngyne (Nothofagaceae). Phytotaxa 146(1): 1–31.
Hooker, W.J. 1844: Icones Plantarum. Vol. 7. Hippolyte Baillière, London.
Ørsted, A.S. 1871: Bidrag til Kundskab om Egefamilien i Nutid og Fortid. Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskabs Skrifter 9: 331–538.
Poole, A.L. 1951: Hybrid southern beeches. New Zealand Journal of Forestry 6: 144–145.
Poole, A.L. 1987: Southern Beeches. Science Information Publishing Centre, DSIR, Wellington.
Smissen, R.D.; Mitchell, C.; Roth, M.; Heenan, P.B. 2015: Absence of hybridisation between Fuscospora species at a site in Arthur’s Pass National Park, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Botany 53(3): 168–174.
Smissen, R.D.; Morse, C.W.; Prada, D.; Ramón-Laca, A.; Richardson, S.J. 2012: Characterisation of seven polymorphic microsatellites for Nothofagus subgenus Fuscospora from New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Botany 50(2): 227–231.
Smissen, R.D.; Richardson, S.J.; Morse, C.W.; Heenan, P.B. 2014: Relationships, gene flow and species boundaries among New Zealand Fuscospora (Nothofagaceae: southern beech). New Zealand Journal of Botany 52(4): 389–406.
Wardle, J. 1984: The New Zealand Beeches. Ecology, Utilisation and Management. New Zealand Forest Service. Caxton Press, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Wilcox, M.D.; Ledgard, N.J. 1983: Provenance variation in the New Zealand species of Nothofagus. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 6: 19–31.