23 September 2009

Kowhai flowers

Contrary to popular belief (here, for example), Aotearoa doesn't have an official national flower, but if we did, kowhai (Sophora spp.) would be one of the prime contenders. Pronunciation varies: "KOR-fye" or "KOR-why" (with a slightly aspirated "wh") are common, but some people still stick with "KOH-eye". The Landcare Research database, Nga Tipu o AotearoaNew Zealand Plants, lists 10 species plus one synonym and a cultivar, but many of the most conspicuous trees in gardens are hybrids. In the wild, they're most commonly found near rivers and streams, where the abrasive action of stones and grit scarifies the hard-coated seeds as they tumble along the stream bed.

They're flowering profusely now, much to the delight of the nectar drinking birds like tui and korimako — and, I suspect, much to the delight of anyone with an eye for masses of bright colour.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

6 comments:

Anne-Marie said...

This picture says New Zealand to me instantly. Unfortunately the flowers on the tree outside my window are fading already - the season was so early this year. But the tui are still having a grand [ie, noisy!] time in its branches.

One of the things I love about kowhai is that while the flowers close up are yellow, a flowering tree seen in the distance is gold.

the watercats said...

Like gold nuggets.... beautiful!

AJB said...

The two ouside my window are almost bare of flowers already. There are several scattered around the site, presumably different clones or hybrids as the flowering times are consistantly different although some of that may be affected by the spot they're in I guess. One of the trees is ancient, I've been looking at it for nearly 25 years and it was looking old from the start...

pohanginapete said...

Anne-Marie, I hadn't noticed that effect before. Thanks for pointing it out — I'll make a point of looking for it.

Watercats, thanks. In some respects they're more valuable than gold — certainly to those birds.

Andrew, I doubt there'll be many flowers left on the trees after the battering they're getting right now. Glad I photographed them when I did.
I love those gnarly old kowhai. They look like real survivors.

Barbara said...

Oh I wish I were a fashion designer and could fashion exquisite dresses modeled on these! My fanciful brain thinks these look like playful faeries swinging from the branch;-)

pohanginapete said...

Barbara, the shape is distinctive, isn't it? They'd be quite at home in a fantasy book.