Friday flowers

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The first blossom. Image: Su Leslie 2020

One of the streets in my neighbourhood is lined with Taiwanese cherry trees (Prunus campanulata). I’d heard they were in blossom and decided to check it out on my morning walk.

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Image: Su Leslie 2020

I was expecting the explosion of pink that confronted me, but was totally unprepared for the number of tui feasting on the flowers’ nectar.

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Tui in a cherry tree. Image; Su Leslie 2020

I’d love to show you what I mean, but was unable to get a shot that really does justice to the masses of these noisy, mischievous birds going crazily feeding.

I’ll try again with a different lens, but in the meantime we can just enjoy the flowers.

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Image: Su Leslie 2020

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Su Leslie 2020

The season of the kowhai

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Spring. Tui feasting on kowhai flower nectar. Image; Su Leslie 2019

Amongst all the flowers that burst forth in Spring, the one that speaks most clearly of the season in Aotearoa New Zealand is the kowhai.

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Image: Su Leslie

Kowhai (eight species of tree within the genus Sophora) are native to this country. Unlike many NZ natives, kowhai are semi-deciduous, making their spring-time transformation even more spectacular. Unusually too, kowhai flowers appear before the new leaves.

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Kowhai flowers. Image: Su Leslie

Kowhai is the Maori word for yellow, and the plant has great significance; practically and culturally. Infusions of kowhai bark were used in traditional Maori medicine to treat a huge range of ailments from dandruff to knitting together broken bones. It was even given as a (fairly dramatic) cure for constipation.

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Kowhai flowers. Image: Su Leslie

These days, the medicinal use of Kowhai is not recommended, as it’s known that the plant contains cytsine, an alkeloid common in several species within the legume family. It is similar to nicotine and, in humans, can cause headaches, breathing difficulties and in large doses — death.

Other animals are clearly not affected; kowhai flower nectar is a favourite food of the native Korimako, Kaka and Tui.  One of the great springtime pleasures is watching and listening to Tui in a kowhai tree.

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Tui in a kowhai tree. Image: Su Leslie 2019

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Tui in a kowhai tree. Image: Su Leslie 2019

If you’d like to know what Tui’s sound like, this video‘s good and has footage of Kereru (wood pigeon) and Tauhou (wax-eye)

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | Spring

Friday Flowers

To touch a hundred flowers

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Rhododendrons, Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, NZ. Image; Su Leslie 2019

“I will be the gladdest thing under the sun! I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.”
― Edna St. Vincent Millay

Of all the things I long for when the current rahui ends, long walks in public gardens is high on my list. In the meantime, I’m searching my archives for garden-visits-past.

Today we’re in Pukekura Park — in springtime.  Covering 52 hectares in central New Plymouth, the park first opened 1876. The boating lake was built in 1878, and in 1931, the Tea House was added — a gift by a former mayor and his wife to mark their golden wedding anniversary. Walking trails take you through fern glades and rhododendron dells, over bridges and alongside the lake. It’s a beautiful, peaceful place. Perfect for a Friday Flowers stroll.