July 24, 2017

Weaving the Wharariki

Plants from Middle Earth

Garden Maine’s New Zealand Extravaganza – Celebrating a Completely Unexpected Journey

Anna Paton Photo | Phormium cookianum cultivar - Mountain flax or wharariki in Maori

Anna Paton Photo | Phormium cookianum cultivar – Mountain flax or wharariki in Maori

Known as mountain flax, Phormium cookianum is endemic to New Zealand (see explanation below), growing in all of the country in coastal areas above the treeline. It is a large plant, reaching a height and width of more than 3 feet with its stiff, erect leaves. The scape, however, can be more than 6 feet tall, sporting flowers that provide nectar for birds, especially the tui, an endemic bird that is able to mimic human speech much like a parrot. The Maori call the plant wharariki and use it to weave a soft kete, a traditional Maori basket, and to make toys.

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Photographs kindly provided by Anna Paton of Auckland, New Zealand, at Auckland Botanic Gardens in November 2012. For a brief interview with Anna, click to read here.

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“New Zealand’s flora is described as being unique due to our long isolation many thousands of years ago. We have some 2,357 different plant species and approximately 80% of them are endemic, meaning they don’t occur anywhere else in the world.”

– From the Auckland Botanic Gardens website

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How did all this come about? You can read about how Janine Pineo of Garden Maine found Anna Paton, more than 9,000 miles away, as the crow flies. If a crow could fly 9,000 miles like that. Click here for that story.