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Clianthus puniceus facts for kids

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Clianthus puniceus
Clianthus puniceus.jpg
leaves and flowers
Conservation status

Nationally Critical (NZ TCS)
Scientific classification

Clianthus puniceus, common name kaka beak (Kōwhai Ngutu-kākā in Māori), is a species of flowering plant in the genus Clianthus of the legume family Fabaceae, native to New Zealand's North Island.


Clianthus puniceus is an evergreen shrub, one of two species of Clianthus, both of which have striking clusters of red flowers resembling the beak of the kākā, a New Zealand parrot. The plant is also known as parrot's beak, parrot's bill and lobster claw. There is also a variety with white to creamy coloured flowers.

It grows to around 2 m (6 ft 7 in) high, with spreading branches producing leaf stalks up to 15 cm (6 in) long bearing several pairs of small leaflets. They usually flower from spring through to early summer, but can flower twice a year or even year round. Its scandent habit means it can be trained against a wall. It requires shelter from frosts.

The Latin specific epithet puniceus refers to the reddish-purple colour of the flowers.

Pests and parasites

MA I321200 TePapa Liriomyza-clianthi-Watt full
Liriomyza clianthi

C. puniceus plays host to the endemic leaf mining fly Liriomyza clianth.

Conservation status

The species is critically endangered in the wild, known only on Moturemu Island in the Kaipara Harbour. In New Zealand it was previously widely grown as a garden plant, but has generally been replaced by the more robust Clianthus maximus. However, it is cultivated in the UK, where it has given rise to several cultivars. Both the species and the cultivar ‘Roseus’ have gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (confirmed 2017).

This plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.


See also

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