August 24, 2017

Starry White Maikaika

Plants from Middle Earth

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

Anna Paton Photo | Arthropodium cirratum - New Zealand rock lily or maikaika in Maori

Anna Paton Photo | Arthropodium cirratum – New Zealand rock lily or maikaika in Maori

Anna Paton Photo | Arthropodium cirratum - New Zealand rock lily or maikaika in Maori

Anna Paton Photo | Arthropodium cirratum – New Zealand rock lily or maikaika in Maori

With a flower stalk that can top 3 feet in height, Arthropodium cirratum shows off its many inch-wide, starry-white, six-petaled blossoms in style, holding them well above the gray-green foliage. It has several other names as well: rengarenga, renga lily, New Zealand rock lily or maikaika in Maori. The plant is endemic to New Zealand (see explanation below) and can be found throughout the country in coastal areas. As per its name, it often grows in rocky areas.  It is not frost tolerant, but manages to survive in dry, exposed conditions. Like many lilies, rengarenga has a rhizome. In this case, it is edible and was a food source for the Maori, who cooked it.  Other historical data suggests that the plant was cultivated by the Maori because it was found near deserted homes and plantations.

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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.