August 24, 2017

The Neat Nikau

Plants from Middle Earth

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

Pamela Rogers Photo | Nikau palm on the Kapiti Coast

Pamela Rogers Photo | Nikau palm on the Kapiti Coast

Pamela Rogers Photo | Nikau Reserve

Pamela Rogers Photo | Nikau Reserve

New Zealand has one palm that is endemic (see below for explanation). That would be the nikau palm, which is the southernmost member of the palms, a massive family with species usually in the tropics or subtropics. Rhopalostylis sapida is an extremely slow-growing plant, preferring coastal forest areas. Pronounced knee-CO, a nikau can take up to 50 years before forming a trunk and 200 years before it reaches a height of about 30 feet, according to the New Zealand Department of Conservation. The palm blossoms in mauve flowers and the resulting fruit takes a year to ripen. That fruit is an important source of food for native birds, a trait that is common between many plants and birds in New Zealand. Nikau palms are of importance to the Maori, as well. The leaves were used as thatch for houses, to wrap food before cooking and for weaving clothing and baskets. The immature flower is edible and can be eaten like cauliflower.

Pamela Rogers Photo | The fruit of the nikau palm

Pamela Rogers Photo | The fruit of the nikau palm

From our photographer, Pamela Rogers: “These were taken just north of Paraparaumu, at a small scenic reserve and bush (our word for dense, usually native and naturally planted, forest) called Nikau Reserve. When you see the photos, the name becomes fairly obvious.”

She continues: “The nikau is a popular symbol in New Zealand art. Lots of local artists use it in their paintings, and the fronds shape in jewellery, for instance. I have included a small photo of the entrance to the central branch of Wellington’s public library with two nikau palms holding up the entranceway. The artwork is just called “Nikau” and included nine palm trees incorporated into the building and six freestanding. The copper, zinc and steel trees were designed by the building’s architect, Ian Athfield. They were originally thought of as a way to conceal not-so-attractive support pillars. But we love them now; they are part of the fabric of the city.”

For even more pictures of this magnificent palm, click here.

Pamela Rogers Photo | Nikau palms at the Wellington Library entrance

Pamela Rogers Photo | Nikau palms at the Wellington Library entrance

* * * * * * * * *

Photographs kindly provided by Pamela Rogers of the Kapiti Coast, in November 2012. For a bit more about Pamela, click to read here.

* * * * * * * * *

“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

* * * * * * * * *

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.

Pamela Rogers Photo | Nikau palms

Pamela Rogers Photo | Nikau palms

Pamela Rogers Photo | Nikau palms

Pamela Rogers Photo | Nikau palms