Fruit and flower of the puriri

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There is always plenty to do if you are interested in the world around you. Here are some ideas to get involved in over the next month.

Bush walking
Last time we suggested that you keep an eye out for the bush supermarket – the puriri. This is because it provides birds with nectar from its flowers and fruit almost all the year round.

If the Puriri is the supermarket, then the Kōwhai is surely the candy store. You will have noticed the brilliant yellow flowers which are in full bloom between August and October depending what part of New Zealand you are in. It is fairly common to see native birds such as the tui, bellbird, kākā and kererū feeding in these trees.

In full bloom the Kowhai is a 'candy stire' for the Tui

The Kōwhai is one of the best known New Zealand native trees and it’s our unofficial national flower. Interestingly, the Kōwhai is the most researched plant on the TfS website. You can read up on the Kōwhai by clicking here.

Fun with flowers
We’ll return to the Kōwhai shortly, but right now Manuka is also a common feature of our landscape. In the picture below, the plants clothed in white flowers are our native Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium).

If you get up close you can see that the flower has 5 white (sometimes with a pinkish tinge) petals.

A close up of a manuka flower

The image shows the five symmetrical petals and in between them you can just see 5 greenish/brown sepals which create the bowl on which the petals, as well as the ring of anthers and the central carpel (stigma, style and ovary), are located.

Looking at the close-up photo of Kōwhai you can immediately see that Manuka is symmetrical with even petals while Kōwhai is

A closeup of Kōwhai flower

asymmetrical with uneven petals. Manuka is known as an actinomorphic () flower while Kōwhai is a zygomorphic (†) flower.

Test your self out on a variety of flowers by doing this floral symmetry test.

Botanists have long used a floral formula allocating specific letters, numbers and symbols to describe floral structure. The sepals make up the calyx (K) and the petals make up the corolla (C) while a whorl of stamens (male reproductive parts) known as the androecium (A) is inside the petals and the gynoecium of carpels (G) are to the inside.

Looking at a Manuka flower you can see that the floral formula is K5 C5 A25 G5. The Kōwhai is similar †K5 C5 A10 G1.
Sometimes different symbols can be used and more information can be included in the formula.  See this link.  
Look out for different flowers when you are out walking and see if you can give each flower a floral formula!


When you see native trees in the wild you might like to record your observation by registering as a recorder in the NZ Plant Conservation website.  Click here for more information.

If you’ve read about floral formulae above you will have a few more words to add to your GLOSSARY. Go to this link ‘Flowers’ to find out what the following words mean:

Calyx – Sepal – Corolla – Petal – Androecium – Anthers – Gynoecium – Carpel – Stigma – Style – Ovary – Actinomorphic – Zygomorphic

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