Plant of the Month

Clianthus puniceus - December 2017

Clianthus puniceus K. Keeton

Photographs © K. Keeton
Clianthus puniceus K. Keeton

Clianthus puniceus was originally discovered on the North island of New Zealand, growing wild in the inlets of the Bay of Islands. It was introduced to this country in 1831, and it is interesting to know that Robert Marnock, designer and first curator of the Sheffield Botanical Gardens, grew it in the Pavilions. Referring to his 1838 catalogue it is said that the plant was first discovered by a missionary, and its first flowering was in the Trentham garden of Lord Leveson Gower at in 1834. The common name for it is ‘parrot’s bill’ referring to the shape of the curved keel petals. In New Zealand it is also called the Kaka beak named after the Kaka a New Zealand parrot.

An evergreen small spreading shrub, it flowers well when given some support on a sheltered wall, and is growing beautifully, although out of season! You may see it growing on the wall of the Gatehouse as you go through into the Botanical Gardens, on the right-hand side. It is a beautiful plant with luxuriant, pinnate foliage, and bright red long pointed flowers constructed just like those of a pea, as it is in the Leguminosae (pea) family. With the amount of buds on the plant it looks as if the plant may give us pleasure for the winter months.

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