CLEMATIS PANICULATA (PUAWANANGA)
This is the showiest of the native species of clematis. Like most clematis it is a climber; in the wild mostly found growing in forest, spreading into treetops where it produces a mass of large white flowers in spring, followed by fluffy seed-heads in autumn on female plants. Male and female flowers are borne on separate plants.
This Clematis is often grown as a garden plant. It likes a structure to climb and a cool shady root run in a moist (though not swampy) soil. Most plants sold by garden centres are male, as the male flowers are usually larger.
DRACOPHYLLUM TRAVERSII (MOUNTAIN NEINEI OR GRASS TREE)
Neinei is one of our more striking and unusual trees. It is found in montane to subalpine forest from Nelson to Arthur’s Pass. They are very hard to grow in cultivation as they hate root disturbance – every time they are bagged up they almost die. They are also very slow growing, but very satisfying when they finally do establish.
I can’t find any information on Maori uses for this plant, and I don’t suspect it is edible!. The flower heads are large though the flowers themselves are small and not striking. The seeds are tiny, and are wind dispersed.
SOPHORA MICROPHYLLA (KOWHAI)
NZ's largest species of kowhai, S. microphylla is found in most parts of the country. In cultivation it can reach 10 m, a large tree for most gardens. It likes well drained soil, and produces prolific yellow flowers in spring which attract birds, particularly tui. The bark had various medicinal uses for Maori, applied externally for itches and skin diseases, and taken internally as a tonic. It was also said to help in healing fractures and reducing bruising.
This herb is found in grassland and rocky places in the North and South Islands. It is a variable species. The plant pictured is from Banks Peninsula, and has large and very hairy leaves with a dense white tomentum on the underside. The flowers are yellow. At the other end of its range of form it is a small-leaved rosette herb. It can be seen at the top end of the Canterbury border at Otari.
PRUMNOPITYS FERRUGINEA (MIRO OR BROWN PINE)
This is a handsome canopy tree to 25 metres tall, with even grained hard timber often used as flooring in the past. It has large seeds which take a long time to ripen and are a favourite food of kereru. These birds are important in the dispersal of this species as the fruit are too large for other birds to eat.
RANUNCULUS LYALLI (MOUNT COOK LILY)
This is one of New Zealand’s more spectacular flowering plants. It is not a lily at all, but a member of the Buttercup family. It is found in the South Island and Stewart Island, in subalpine to low alpine habitats. It flowers from October to January, with lower altitude plants flowering earlier.
It is a difficult plant in cultivation, preferring a cool site and disliking humidity. We have some in the nursery at Otari, two of which surprised us by flowering last year.