All About the Manuka Tree: The Source of Manuka Honey

All About the Manuka Tree: The Source of Manuka Honey
Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden

9 minutes

The Manuka tea tree’s distinctive traits and symbiotic relationship with bees in New Zealand create the unique, nutrient-packed nectar that makes Manuka honey so prized across the globe.

Key Takeaways

  • The Manuka tea tree is native to New Zealand and thrives in its varied terrain and damp, nutrient-rich climate.
  • Distinctive features like its flowers, nectar, and leaves make the Manuka tree vital for pure, potent Manuka honey.
  • Bees and the Manuka tree rely on each other – bees get unique MGO-rich nectar while enabling the tree’s pollination.
  • Preserving the Manuka tree is crucial for ecological health and honey production.

Comparing Key Points




Native to NZ, grown across the North and South Islands. Thrives in diverse climate zones.

Key Traits

Small white flowers, methylglyoxal in nectar, leathery antibacterial leaves.

Tree and Bees Relationship

Bees get MGO-rich nectar, tree gets pollinated in return.


Protecting ecosystems, seed planting, and sustainable harvesting for future regeneration.

What type of tree does Manuka honey come from and why is it so beneficial? 

Manuka honey comes from the nectar of the Manuka tea tree native to New Zealand. The tree has unique antibacterial and antioxidant properties, which interact with enzymes from bees to produce honey packed with methylglyoxal (MGO), prebiotics, and other nutrients that make it more antibacterial and anti-inflammatory than other kinds of honey.

Executive Summary:

The Manuka Tea Tree: Discovering the Roots of Manuka Honey

Manuka honey is often discussed in relation to its beneficial nutrients. Yet, the real unsung hero behind this golden nectar is the Manuka tea tree.

This resilient tree plays an indispensable role in the making of Manuka honey. It's the botanical origin, the very lifeblood, that imbues this special honey with its unique qualities

So, let’s take a closer look at the Manuka tea tree, uncovering its roots, its distinctive botanical traits, the symbiotic dance between the tea tree and the bees—and how its remarkable characteristics contribute to one of the most sought-after kinds of honey in the world.

The Roots of the Manuka Tree: Its New Zealand Heritage

In the sprawling, untouched terrains of New Zealand, a country celebrated for its ethereal landscapes and natural wonders, the Manuka tea tree can flourish in all its glory—despite the sometimes harsh climate conditions. Its native grounds stretch from the northernmost tip of the North Island to the rugged coasts of the South Island, encapsulating a wide range of microclimates and geographies.

  • Amid dense clusters of ferns and tall Kauri trees, the Manuka tea tree stands as a testament to the island's lush biodiversity.
  • The Maori people, indigenous to New Zealand, have recognized the Manuka tea tree's significance for centuries—utilizing it not just for its honey but also for its medicinal properties.

The New Zealand climate, often damp and rich in organic material, offers a fertile ground where this tree can grow and blossom. Categorized as a shrub tree, the Manuka tea tree draws nourishment from the abundant, mineral-rich soil.

While it has the luxury of growing within a pristine environment, untouched by industrial pollutants, the Manuka tea tree is very resilient. 

  • It’s the first plant to re-establish itself after land clearing. 
  • It can survive droughts and frost. 
  • It also plays an incredible role in preventing soil erosion, making it an essential part of a complex ecosystem that is as awe-inspiring as it is vital.

The Manuka tea tree is not merely a plant but a symbol of the pure, unspoiled beauty and resilience that New Zealand represents. 

As you savor the rich, complex, and caramel flavors of Manuka honey, it’s as if you are tasting the essence of New Zealand itself.

Distinctive Botanical Traits

The Manuka tea tree, also known as Leptospermum scoparium, further possesses a set of distinctive botanical traits that set it apart from other trees and contribute to the exceptional qualities of Manuka honey.

The tree features small, pointed foliage that has a leathery texture. While beautiful and stunning all on their own, these leaves are also packed with beneficial compounds, which have potent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

However, the most captivating feature of this wondrous tree is its flowers. The flowers are tiny, usually no larger than a dime. Yet, what they lack in size, they make up for in sheer potency and aesthetic allure. The flowers are typically white, and they bloom for only a brief period—just two to six weeks per year—creating a fleeting window during which bees busily collect the nectar necessary to produce Manuka honey. So, let’s dig into this golden nectar further!

Unlike the nectar from other flowering plants, Manuka nectar contains a nutrient called methylglyoxal (MGO). MGO is well-known (and well-researched) for its antibacterial and antioxidant qualities. This beneficial nutrient is what makes Manuka honey so special.

The Symbiotic Dance: Manuka Tree and Bees

In many ways, the Manuka tea tree and bees are part of a mesmerizing ballet. This mutually beneficial relationship offers advantages for the natural environment and gives us (and the bees) the deliciously creamy goodness of Manuka honey.

  • When the Manuka tree blooms, it issues an invitation—an aromatic beckoning—to the bees. Attracted by the flowers’ scents, bees swarm the Manuka tree.
  • They buzz from flower to flower in another type of dance, collecting the precious nectar necessary to make their Manuka honey.

Yet, this entire relationship is built on reciprocity. The Manuka tree provides the bees with a unique, MGO-rich nectar. In return, the bees play a vital role in pollination, ensuring the tree's life cycle continues.

A Gift from Nature: The Manuka Tree’s Role in Manuka Honey’s Unique Compounds

In the world of honey, Manuka honey stands out for its high nutrient potency, including MGO, prebiotics, and antioxidants. Yet, these beneficial nutrients wouldn’t exist without the Manuka tea tree. 

More specifically, MGO is unique solely to the Manuka tea tree’s nectar; you won’t find this nutrient in any other type of honey. 

Leptosperin is another nutrient found in Manuka tea tree nectar, which, along with MGO, can help authenticate genuine Manuka honey from fake stuff.

At the end of the day, the Manuka tea tree is what makes Manuka honey as nutrient-rich and unique as it is. Because of this, we can consider this golden liquid as a gift from Mother Nature herself.

Conservation and Sustainability: Protecting the Manuka Tree

With Manuka honey becoming more and more popular, the protection of the Manuka tea tree has never been more important than now. Yet, preserving this natural treasure goes beyond honey. It’s about protecting an entire ecosystem that is vital to the health of our beloved planet Earth.

  • The Manuka tea tree offers shade for other plant species.
  • It helps stabilize the soil, allowing other more fragile and delicate plants to grow and flourish.

This is why various organizations and governmental bodies in New Zealand are actively involved in ensuring that the Manuka tree thrives. Initiatives include seedling planting programs, habitat restoration, and sustainable harvesting practices that ensure the tree's ability to regenerate. 

At Manukora, we believe in supporting the natural environment in any way we can. While we love our daily indulgence of Manuka honey, we also know that supporting the Manuka tea tree and bees is about ensuring the health of our entire planet. 

In an effort to give back to Mother Nature, our team actively participates in native reforestation along waterways, only sources our honey from beekeepers in remote regions, and stays ever-conscious of our own environmental footprint.

Manukora’s Connection with the Manuka Tree

When it comes down to it, Manukora is committed to upholding our end of the bargain. While the Manuka tea tree and bees give us this delightfully delicious golden nectar, we strive to give back to the environment, too.

Manukora not only produces exquisite Manuka honey but also offers unique tools like the Manukora Dose Spoon to enhance your honey experience. Our diverse Manuka Honey Collection, including the highly sought-after Manuka Honey MGO 600+ UMF 16, exemplifies our dedication to quality and purity.

Moreover, we believe in educating our customers, offering insights on topics like:

Every step of the way, Manukora’s beekeepers uphold The Art of Ethical Beekeeping, which is a traditional way of beekeeping that cares for both the bees and the environment. 

This means: 

  • We don’t use pesticides, GMOS, or antibiotics.
  • We leave enough honey for the bees to get through the winter.
  • We avoid excessive hive transportation.
  • We allow for “raw” and “natural” processing of the honey, carefully harvesting it when it’s ready.

As you savor your next spoonful of Manuka honey, such as Manukora’s MGO 850+, pause for a moment to appreciate the rich legacy of the Manuka tea tree. Every jar represents a story of natural harmony, ethical stewardship, and the remarkable resilience of a tree that has stood the test of time.


What makes Manuka honey different from other types of honey?

Manuka honey is unique because it comes from the nectar of the Manuka tea tree, which contains methylglyoxal (MGO) and other compounds with antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds give Manuka honey its high nutrient potency and health benefits that are not found in other kinds of honey.

How does the Manuka tree contribute to the ecosystem in New Zealand?

The Manuka tree plays a crucial role in New Zealand's ecosystem by preventing soil erosion, offering shade for other plant species, and stabilizing the soil. Its resilience and ability to thrive in diverse climates make it vital for maintaining the ecological balance and supporting biodiversity in the region.

Why is the symbiotic relationship between bees and the Manuka tree important?

The relationship between bees and the Manuka tree is mutually beneficial; bees collect the MGO-rich nectar from the tree's flowers to make Manuka honey, while in the process, they pollinate the tree, ensuring its continued life cycle and the production of this unique honey.

How is the authenticity of Manuka honey verified?

The authenticity of Manuka honey is verified through the presence of unique compounds like MGO and leptosperin, which are only found in the nectar of the Manuka tea tree. These markers help differentiate genuine Manuka honey from imitations.

What are the conservation efforts for the Manuka tree in New Zealand?

Conservation efforts for the Manuka tree include habitat restoration, seedling planting programs, and sustainable harvesting practices to ensure the tree's ability to regenerate. These efforts are crucial for preserving the tree not just for honey production but also for its role in the ecosystem.


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