There is no doubt that kanuka is the poor cousin of the two but what really makes the difference?
First lets look at appearances.
The flowers – of course you cannot use this indicator when there are no flowers but the manuka ha
s larger single flowers that are spread over the bush while kanuka flowers are smaller and tend to be in clumps they generally flower later.
The bark- kanuka bark is light brown and has thin strips, manuka bark has a reddish tinge and has wider strips
The leaves – This is the best way to tell the difference, kanuka leaves are softer than manuka
Kanuka trees grow taller, up to 10 metres and generally have a longer life.
The most important differences for beekeepers is the honey.
Manuka has a unique non-peroxide antibacterial activity (NPA) as a result of the chemical methylglyoxal (MGO) being present in high concentrations. MGO levels are often quoted to show the quality of the honey.
Kanuka honey does not have MGO present. However although kanuka does not exibit non-peroxide activity it does have antibacterial properties due to the high levels of hydrogen peroxide in the honey. As research into the health benefits of kanuka continue we may see a greater demand for this honey also.