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Three Kings Kaikōmako facts for kids

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Three Kings Kaikōmako
Pennantia baylisiana tree.png
Conservation status
Scientific classification

Pennantia baylisiana, commonly known as Three Kings Kaikōmako and Kaikōmako Manawa Tāwhi (Māori) is a species of plant in the family Pennantiaceae (Icacinaceae in older classifications). It is endemic to the Three Kings Islands, New Zealand, where only one plant is known to exist. It is threatened by habitat loss. Since its discovery in 1945; it has been successfully propagated. The single tree known in the wild grows on a scree slope on the northern face of Great Island in the Three Kings group off Cape Reinga, New Zealand. The species was discovered in 1945 by Professor Geoff Baylis of the University of Otago.


P. baylisiana is a multi-trunked tree which grows to a height of 5 m in the wild, though has been recorded reaching 8 m in cultivation. It has greyish-brown bark and brachlets that are covered with lenticels. It has leathery, green, egg-shaped 12 - 16 by 7 - 10 cm leaves that have hair covered domatium in their lateral veins and are suspended off of 2.5cm long petioles. Flowering occurs from October to November, producing 1.5 by 1.5 mm greenish-white flowers in terminal panicles with 2.6 mm petals. The stamen is made up of a 1 - 1.4 mm long anther on top of a 1.5 mm long filament, though the pollen is usually sterile. It has a 2.8 by 2 mm cylindrical ovary with a stigmatic ring 1.5 - 1.8 mm in diameter. Fruiting is from January through to April, yielding 10 by 4.5 mm ellipsoid fruit. Mature fruit are purple and have a 9 by 3.5 mm stone.


It is found only in the Three Kings Islands, an Island chain 55km north-west of the top of the North Island, on Great Island. There is only one tree known in the wild; a female growing above a cliff on the northern face of Great Island.


P. baylisiana was first discovered by botanist Geoff Baylis in 1945 when he visited Great Island on a botanical expedition.


Pennantia is after Thomas Pennant a welsh zoologist and author from the 18th century. The specific epithet baylisiana recognises the 20th century New Zealand botanist Geoff Baylis.

In Māori culture

In traditional Māori culture when someone dies their wairua, or spirit, is believed to be sent to the underworld or rarohenga. Northern Iwi (Tribes) such as Ngāti Kurī believe that their spirits travel up to Manawatāwhi (Three Kings Islands), which means "last breath" in English, because it is there that they would take their final look at Aotearoa (New Zealand) and descend into the sea and down into the underworld. P. baylisiana, then, as a species found only there, makes up a key part of te rerenga wairua, the leaping place of the spirits. Sheridan Waitai, the executive director of the Ngāti Kuri Trust Board, is quoted as saying of the plant: "[It] is part of the fabric of life, every species that disappears is a tear in that fabric, in our histories and our cultures.

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