One of NZ's rare plants in the wild. Stunning red flowers resemble a native parrot's beak.
Clianthus puniceus clings to existence within nature, with the survival of just one plant on an island in the Kaipara Harbour, whilst Clianthus maximus is represented by fewer than 200 plants in the wild, after a spectacular decline within recent years. As with the now-popular Three Kings islands climber, Tecomanthe speciosa, cultivation beckons as being an essential tool in the conservation of both species of kakabeak.
Like many other members of the pea family, Fabaceae, kakabeak are associated with disturbed and marginal habitats, such as slipfaces or cliffs. They have also been historically associated with sites of pre-European Māori habitation, leading previously to the hypothesis that continual cultivation by Māori had ensured the survival of the species thus far. Though it is difficult to assert with any surety that the species would not have survived without deliberate cultivation, this has certainly played a role.
Although they grow vigorously within cultivation, Clianthus suffer from a range of threats within the wild and gardens. Snails (the scourge of many of our threatened species) can ravage plants, as do leaf-miners and other insects. Browsing animals are a serious threat within nature, as is drought.
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