Local Heart, Global Soul

June 2, 2018

Kōwhai, Another Amazing Mural…

Filed under: ART,Mural,NEW ZEALAND,PHOTOGRAPHY,WELLINGTON — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Another mural in the Wellington area is of one of New Zealand’s most beautiful flowers, the Kōwhai.

I think it’s a huge pity that the painters of this piece did not use the actual colour of the famous flower: a brilliant bright yellow gold instead of the sombre black they decided on for these walls.

If you are unfamiliar with the Kōwhai I strongly suggest you Google it because it is a stunning plant.

Our visits have always been out of season so sadly I have no photographs of my own to show you.

The Kōwhai in the garden of my parents’ house in Christchurch would have its branches bent almost to the ground under the weight of its blooms around the month of August.

It’s a flower that is both insect and bird friendly and a special favourite of the New Zealand Fantails and Bellbirds, the song of both we heard often through open windows or when outside.

The Scarlet Cianthus, is called Kōwhai-ngutu-kaka, or “Parrot’s beak,” by Maori due to the shape of its rich flowers, but does not carry any special association in their folklore.

One traditional Maori explanation for the Kōwhai’s singular habit of flowering on bare and leafless branches goes:
“On the shore of one of a lake, sat a young Maori man and a woman, the beautiful Kotiro. He sought her for his wife, but the maid laughed and said she’d see; she would wait until her suitor—who was an Ariki of high rank, performed some great and deed before she would become his wife. She would wed none but a famous man, a man whose exploits no one could outdo. The lover accepted the challenge. “You shall see what I can do,” he said, He turned to the tree under which they were sitting. It was a Kōwhai. It was August. The tree was quite bare of both flower and leaf.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

“I shall cause this tree to spring into flower before your eyes.”

He put forth the command taught him by wise men. And, all in a moment, a miracle! The tree burst forth into a blaze of blossom.

All its naked boughs were covered in a breath with golden hanging flowers. The amazed girl saw, and was smitten.

Ever since that day, says the Maori, the Kōwhai has flowered on leafless branches, a sign and a reminder of the ancient miracle.

Wikipedia also tells us:
“The Kōwhai is a native tree and the national flower of New Zealand.

Several of the seven varieties reach a height of up to 25 metres (82 feet), the smaller varieties to around 10 metres (33 feet).

Traditionally Kōwhai trees and flowers were used by Māori in making yellow dye, the bark to treat bruising, muscular pains and other injuries.”

Apparently too: “If someone was bitten by a seal, an infusion (wai kōwhai) was prepared from kōwhai and applied to the wounds and the patient was said to recover within days”. (yep, I’ll be sure to remember that if I’m ever bitten by a seal).

The hard yellow seeds are poisonous to humans, but the flowers are a guaranteed way to attract native birds into your New Zealand garden, Kōwhai necter being a bird favourite. The peculiarity of this loveliest of our small flowering trees is the fact that it produces its blossoms before the leaves. The flower also makes an appearance on local artwork, in folktales, and it’s featured on postage stamps, as well as the country’s old two-cent coin.”

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The Golden Kowhai – A Folk Tale of the Maori // James Cowan

Wikipedia / Kōwhai Tree and Flower / National Flower / New Zealand

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