2012 Kiwi Treasures
With the highly successful ‘Icons of New Zealand’ series now complete, we present ‘Kiwi Treasures’, an all new chapter in the story in which the kiwi is united with a fascinating selection of New Zealand treasures.
This is your opportunity to join the ‘Kiwi Treasures’ journey, which begins with a three-year series focusing on New Zealand’s treasures of nature. What better choice to start then, than with our national flower: the kōwhai?
Native to New Zealand, the kōwhai (which means ‘yellow’ in Māori) is famous for its spectacular golden flowers, whose blooming signals the arrival of spring. Hanging in pendulous clusters, the flowers can be up to six centimetres long, and with their deliciously sweet nectar are a popular attraction for native birds like the tūī, bellbird and kererū (wood pigeon). With this abundance of natural delights, it’s no surprise that the kōwhai, which grows easily throughout New Zealand, is a plant of choice for Kiwi gardeners nationwide!
The kōwhai also has traditional significance for the Māori people of New Zealand. Its seasonal lifecycle was used as a guide to planting annual kumara (sweet potato) crops, while its medicinal properties made it useful for treating wounds and tumours, as an infusion for pain, bruises and broken limbs and as a treatment for ringworm. Its wood is also very hard and durable; hauled straight from the bush, it was used for paddles and adzes, and can be used for construction without any treatment.
Overwhelmingly though, the kōwhai is known for its place in our natural landscape. Comprising eight species – from bushes with interlacing branches to small trees up to 15 metres high – it’s both a wonderful garden tree and a magnificent feature of our native forests. Once seen, it is never forgotten.
The three ‘Kiwi Treasures – Kōwhai’ coins capture the kōwhai in full bloom, providing a beautiful accompaniment to the image of the New Zealand kiwi. This nocturnal, flightless bird – leading a largely invisible life compared with the kōwhai flower – is now an endangered species, the victim of mammalian predators and habitat modification and loss. Fortunately, kiwi sanctuaries and conservation programmes are helping to protect this national treasure and encourage the species to breed.