Clianthus puniceus

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Clianthus puniceus
Clianthus puniceus.jpg
leaves and flowers

Nationally Critical (NZ TCS)[1]
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Clianthus
C. puniceus
Binomial name
Clianthus puniceus
(G.Don) Sol. ex Lindl.[2]

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. It 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.

The Latin specific epithet puniceus refers to the reddish-purple colour of the flowers.[3]

The species is critically endangered in the wild, known only on Moturemu Island in the Kaipara Harbour.[4] In New Zealand it was previously widely grown as a garden plant, but has generally been replaced by the more robust Clianthus maximus.[5] However, it is cultivated in the UK, where it has given rise to several cultivars. Both the species[6] and the cultivar ‘Roseus’[7] have gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (confirmed 2017).[8]

Clianthus puniceus 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.[9] Its scandent habit means it can be trained against a wall. It requires shelter from frosts.

This plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[10]


  1. ^ P. J. de Lange; D. A. Norton; S. P. Courtney; P. B. Heenan; J. W. Barkla; E. K. Cameron; R. Hitchmough; A. J. Townsend (2009). "Threatened and uncommon plants of New Zealand (2008 revision)". New Zealand Journal of Botany. 47 (1): 61–96. doi:10.1080/00288250909509794.
  2. ^ Entry in New Zealand Plants database, Landcare Research. Retrieved 7 April 2006.
  3. ^ Harrison, Lorraine (2012). RHS Latin for gardeners. United Kingdom: Mitchell Beazley. p. 224. ISBN 9781845337315.
  4. ^ Heenan, P.B. (2000). "Clianthus (Fabaceae) in New Zealand: a reappraisal of Colenso's taxonomy" (PDF). New Zealand Journal of Botany. 38: 361–371. doi:10.1080/0028825x.2000.9512688. ISSN 0028-825X. Retrieved 2010-10-07.
  5. ^ "Clianthus puniceus". New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. 2010-11-13. Retrieved 2010-11-14.
  6. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Clianthus puniceus". Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  7. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Clianthus puniceus 'Roseus'". Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  8. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 16. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  9. ^ "Kakabeak", pp. 168-169 in Gerard Hutching's The Natural World of New Zealand, Penguin Books (NZ) Ltd, 1998. ISBN 0-670-87782-4
  10. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Clianthus puniceus". Retrieved 17 July 2013.

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