Wellington Spring

kōwhai flowers (31 August 2013)

kōwhai flowers (31 August 2013)



Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;

Gerard Manley Hopkins, in Spring (Poems 1918)

At the end of our warmest winter on record, New Zealanders have been treated to an early spring.

The leaf-buds on roses pruned only a week ago are already bursting with new life, and the magnolias in local gardens are quite spectacular.

Spring is seen as a time of growth, renewal, of new life (both plant and animal) being born. The term is also used more generally as a metaphor for the start of better times, as in the Prague Spring. … In South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, spring begins on 1 September, and has no relation to the vernal equinox. (Wikipedia)

Throughout the region, the golden flowers of kōwhai are in evidence – although not all of the eight species bloom at the same time. A grand old tree in a friend’s garden is showing its first flowers for the season (see image).  Before long, though, it will be a glowing mass of colour, and a magnet for tui (more correctly, tūī), which like kōwhai nectar in spring as much as they do flax flowers in summer.

Despite having no official status as such, the blooms of the kōwhai are widely regarded as being New Zealand’s national flower. (Wikipedia)

Somewhere in the back of my mind is the idea that the kōwhai flower has been utilised as an emblem of reconciliation, but I can find no relevant inter-web reference.

Perhaps it connects with Māori medicinal practice (rongoā). In traditional Māori healing, diagnosis involved a holistic approach that included mind, body and spirit – mauri (spark or life force), wairua (spirit), and tapu (natural law). Whakapapa or genealogy was also considered. (from www.newzealand.com) All parts of the tree contain toxic alkaloids, so careful preparation of kōwhai rongoā is crucial.

Winter in my little pansy- and violet-sprinkled courtyard hasn’t required much of me, but the surge in spring growth has the weeds flourishing and the fragrant mint spreading.

I’m busy tomorrow. Maybe Tuesday …


3 thoughts on “Wellington Spring

  1. We will eagerly await the glowing mass of color — a yellow tree in full bloom is a spectacular and cheering sight.
    Happy Spring to you!
    We have our first really cool day, harbinger of nearby Autumn —

    • The “yellow tree in full bloom” was indeed “a spectacular and cheering sight” when I visited it on Wednesday … but a stormy spring gale was blowing that day, so nothing stayed still long enough to be photographed. Back again on Saturday, with sunshine and a sou’wester forecast.

  2. Pingback: Kōwhai gallery | a twisted pair

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