Clianthus puniceus

Kaka beak, Kōwhai Ngutu-kākā, Papageienschnabel

It must’ve been over fifteen years ago that I bought a packet each of red and white kaka beak seeds from New Zealand (legally and through the post). This was after only one successful attempt at growing our native Sturt’s desert pea. I had it in my head that kaka beak needed to be sown in autumn, and so two or three years in a row I sowed a pot of each colour, saw a few grow, some even to their first pair of true leaves, then cark it.

A few years ago I came across the remaining seeds, and repeated the experiment, this time checking with a supplier on the optimum sowing time. Seems they can be planted for most of the year. The first re-attempt came to nought, but out of the second attempt I ended up with four plants of the red. None of the white ones came up, but I might try again, considering the viability of the red seeds. How could I tell them apart? The red-flowering ones are black, and the white-flowering ones a pale brown.

ClianthusMy largest specimen (not full-sized by any means) grew buds last year, but these dried up on a particularly hot day. The specimen was later planted behind a retaining wall at the side of the house, and I’ve watched the buds develop eagerly. Then today, the first open flower!

I guess there are some people, particularly “across the ditch”, laughing at this great achievement. Well, I still get a kick any time seeds germinate. Always have done. Always will. And now one’s flowering.

Back to the plant per se, it seems that it is critically endangered in the wild and restricted to one location. Thankfully it’s not so rare in cultivation.

 

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