The flower of the Clematis paniculata (Puawhananga) heralding ‘spring is near’ on the Tutukaka Coast.
I was delighted to see a few ‘new’ signs on the Lighthouse walk and couldn’t help to stop and take a picture of this one reminding us that Kiwi are roaming free on the coast!
Further along and on the track to Kukutauwhao Island hiding in the grass was another welcome sign – clematis paniculata in flower in the grass. None of the vines in the trees and shrubs seemed to be flowering yet, however this little pocket tucked snugly in among buffalo grass had possibly found a mirco-climate giving this male plant a head start.
The male flowers (like this) are most commonly seen and associated with Puawhananga, the female flowers have fluffy seed heads which are borne on different (male & female) plants. More information about Clematis Paniculata can be found here on terrain.net.nz .
These plants can be confused with Old Man’s Beard (here is a description of Old Mans Beard and if you do see any of this notify NRC!).
According to terrain.net.nz “Clematis paniculata was traditionally a harbinger of spring to Maori, for whom it was also connected with the harvest of eels, a spring event. The Maori made garlands from the flowers. Andrew Crowe in his book (Which native forest plant) described a beautiful Maori legend for these “stars of the forest”. To some tribes, whauwhaupaku (the five finger tree) and puawananga were the offspring of Puanga (Rigel, the bright star of Orion) and Rehua (Antares, the bright star of Scorpion). Their rising as morning stars signals the approach of summer, the period between these two events (June to November) coinciding with the flowering, first of whauwhaupaku (Pseudopanax arboreus and then puawananga (Clematis paniculata).”