Friday’s Florals: Kakabeak

Kaka's Beak-1

Good morning from a hopefully sunny spring day here in Hastings.

Today as we are still in celebration mode over winning the Rugby World Cup last weekend, I thought I would show an endangered New Zealand native flower – the Kakabeak.  I had to look up in my encyclopedia of plants to find the name for it – it is also known as Lobster Claw, New Zealand’s Parrot’s Bill, Parrot-beaked Kowhai, Red Kowhai.

I found some info at this website:

The kowhai ngutukaka’s beautiful flowers and edible seedpods have long made this plant attractive to gardeners and were used by Māori for gifting and trading.

It has bright green seedpods which turn brown and split open when dry. These pods contain large numbers of tightly packed small black seeds. Its seed remains viable for a long time and therefore can be stored and transported easily.

The shrub features clusters of stunning red flowers each spring. It is a member of the pea family and its closest relatives are in Australia.

Plants can grow up to 2-3m tall, producing long, trailing stems that form new plants when they come into contact with soil. In this way, one parent plant can cover a large area.

I haven’t seen this around much at all, but I found this bush on my walk.

Volunteers growing locally sourced kakabeak for distribution in Wairoa

This lovely shrub is commonly found in plant centres and gardeners are often surprised to hear it is one of our most threatened plants. It is a very nutritious plant and has no defences against browsing by deer, goats, pigs, hares, stock or introduced garden snails (which are often found in the wild).

Kowhai ngutukaka was noted as being uncommon in the wild as early as the beginning of last century. Introduced plants, such as mexican daisy, gorse and buddleia, also threaten its survival as they like to live in similar sites.

I can’t remember seeing much of this growing in the wild when I have been out and about.  So I was excited to see this and just had to take photos of it.

Kaka's Beak-1-2

Where is it found?

We don’t know what the pre-human distribution of kowhai ngutukaka was as Maori are thought to have transported it around the country. We do know that kowhai ngutukaka once grew in Northland, Auckland, Great Barrier Island, Coromandel, around Lake Waikaremoana, the East Cape and Hawke’s Bay.

Today kowhai ngutukaka grows on Moturemu Island in the Kaipara harbour, at several sites on the East Cape, Te Urewera, near Wairoa, and in Boundary Stream Mainland Island in Hawke’s Bay.

Kowhai ngutukaka grows in open, sunny, steep sites, often on rocky outcrops, slips, the bases of cliffs or edges of lakes and streams. It is a relatively short-lived plant, sometimes lasting 15-20 years.

Kowhai ngutukaka has a long-lived seed which may still be able to germinate 30 years after being produced, creating a ‘seed bank’ that holds many seeds ready to germinate when conditions suit. This enables it to grow in shrubland which is not permanently open but is frequently disturbed. The seeds wait for light gaps to appear, e.g. following a treefall or a slip, and then germinate in response.

Being a member of the pea family kowhai ngutukaka can fix nitrogen, enabling it to grow in infertile sites.

Friday's Florals

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