Introduction

The return of a rare native plant which has been brought back from extinction in the wild is a significant achievement for plant protection in New Zealand, Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says.

A rare white variant of the red kakabeak (ngutukākā or Clianthus) which grew at the Tiniroto cliffs near Wairoa has not been seen in the wild since the 1950s.

At a ceremony in Rotorua today around 100 of the plants, grown from seeds by Crown Research Institute Scion, have been handed over to East Coast iwi Ngāti Kohatu and Ngāti Hinehika to be planted back on their ancestral lands.

“Scion has worked together with DOC, Landcare Research and the Ngutukākā  Recovery Group for four years to propagate the white kakabeak seeds and seedlings in its nurseries,” Ms Barry says.

“White kakabeak was thought to be extinct, but the chance discovery of some seeds taken from the Wairoa area has enabled Scion to revitalise it. It has been ground-breaking scientific work and today’s ceremony marks a significant milestone for the species’ recovery.”

Land at Te Reinga marae, Wairoa, has been fenced off to provide a safe area for the plants and Scion and DOC will help iwi ensure they flourish.

“Red kakabeak is a popular garden plant but is critically endangered in the wild due to threats such as possums, deer, goats and snails. With only around 100 plants remaining in the wild, it is classified as Nationally Critical,” Ms Barry says.

“Our endemic New Zealand plants are part of our natural heritage, and we must all strive to protect them. Kakabeak is a nectar-rich native flower that attracts birds and I’d encourage more people to grow it in their own gardens.

White kakabeak.
White kakabeak

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