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.

tui in kowhai

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

Elusive

Tui feeding in kowhai tree. Image: Su Leslie 2019

Maybe I’m stretching the definition of elusive a bit here. Tui are abundant in our garden at the moment, with record numbers feeding on the kowhai, flax and fuchsia in the neighbourhood.

Photographing them is a different matter. Today is the first time I’ve managed to get close enough to focus my lens on the birds and not just the foliage.

Images: Su Leslie 2019

Ragtag Daily Prompt | elusive

Step away from the mayhem, if only for a while

Kowhai leaves; black and white, aged with Snapseed and Aviary Photo Editor filters. Image: Su Leslie, 2015.

Kowhai leaves. Image: Su Leslie, 2015. Edited with Snapseed and Aviary Photo Editor.

In the days before Christmas, life took on a slightly manic quality. Locating sellotape and wrapping paper became a quest of epic proportions, and even the smallest errand seemed to involve a cast of thousands;  all of us sitting in our cars waiting for a parking space.

I had very little time to spend outdoors, alone with my thoughts; so I valued an early-morning walk even more than usual.

It seems appropriate that these images for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge, should reference the unexpected, and rather ethereal sense of peace I felt during that walk.

Kowhai leaves; black and white, aged with Snapseed and Aviary Photo Editor filters. Image: Su Leslie, 2015.

Kowhai leaves; black and white. Image: Su Leslie, 2015. Edited with Snapseed and Aviary Photo Editor.

 

Kowhai leaves; black and white. Image: Su Leslie, 2015. Edited with  Snapseed and Aviary Photo Editor.

Kowhai leaves; black and white. Image: Su Leslie, 2015. Edited with Snapseed and Aviary Photo Editor.