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New Zealand Native Flowers


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New Zealand has the most beautiful delicate native flowers that are endemic to Aotearoa - Can we use them in Floristry? In this article, our florist explores some of the most iconic and interesting native NZ flowers from Auckland and around New Zealand.

What Flowers are Native to New Zealand and
do our Florists use them in the Flower Shop?


INDEX

1) History - How endemic NZ Flora has been depicted in the past in beautiful Lithographs and NZ Stamp Collections.
2) Did You Know - New Zealand has over 160 species of Native Orchids?
3) Does N.Z. have a National Flower?
4) What is the Most Beautiful New Zealand Flower? (in this florists' opinion!)
5) What is the name of the NZ Red Christmas Flower?
6) Why do Bees love our beautiful Manuka Blossom for making UMF Honey?
7) Harakeke and woven Flax Flowers - Here's a native we use every day in the Florist Shop.
8) Unique Kaka Beak - Striking Flower named after NZ native Parrot.
9) New Zealand's native Buttercup.
10) Sweet smelling Clematis - Puawananga.
11) Hebe - named after the Greek Goddess of Youth.
12) Native ToeToe Grass - Not to be confused with the pest Pampas Grass.
13) Stunning Blue Flowers - Chatham Island Forget-me-Nots.
14) How has this florist used native NZ Flowers in Natural Funeral Designs?



1) History - How endemic NZ Flora has been depicted in the past.

- Beautiful Lithographs and NZ Stamp Collections.

New Zealand is a land of unique and diverse flora, with many species of flowers that are native to Aotearoa.

These unique plants and flowers have evolved in isolation for millions of years, resulting in a rich and fascinating array of species that can be found nowhere else on the globe. You can imagine how excited botanist Joseph Banks was in 1769, when he saw all these unusual flowers and species not seen before in the european world.

Did you Know?
The Botany Collection at Te Papa Museum
has a specimen of Mamaku collected in 1769 during Captain Cook's first expedition to New Zealand.

lithograph of NZ native flowers of New Zealand.


Pictured above: "Native Flowers of New Zealand" was a very early NZ natural history colour lithograph.
Published originally in 1899 by the New Zealand Graphic and Star Printing Works.
Original painting was by William Huddlestone, lithographed by William Shaw Diedrich Schmidt.

Features Native NZ flowers including pohutukawa, clematis, kowhai, kaka beak, hebes and manuka in a wooden bowl with Māori carving.

Shown below is a collection of historical lithographs depicting NZ flora such as Kaka Beak, Pohutukawa and Kōwhai.

lithograph of mixed nz native floralslithograph illustration of New Zealand native Kaka Beak Flowerlithograph of native nz pohutukawa flowerslithograph of nz native kowhai Sephora flowers

 


 

2) Did you Know - New Zealand has over 160 species of Native Orchids?


Have you ever seen Native New Zealand Orchids? With over 160 species recorded, not many people have actually seen these native orchids. These are shy, retiring flowers that have often been overlooked in our native flora and fauna records. They usually have small delicate blooms, which come in a vast range of colours and shapes are are found from the coastline, swamps and up to the alpine fields.

The rarest NZ orchid is the Black Helmet Orchid - it is critically endangered and found only at Whangamarino Wetland, an internationally recognised Ramsar wetland site (Internationally significant wetlands) in the Waikato.

When we think of orchids - most of us think of showy orchids, such as Phalaenopsis orchids, growing in tropical exotic countries, such as Thailand or Malasia, but in New Zealand, native orchids are more hidden, and grow low down on the paths - look down for them next time you are hiking in the rainforests.

The native NZ orchids are rare and threatened and under conservation, so cannot be picked or the plants sold. You can learn more about New Zealand Native Orchids here >

NZ post stamp collection featuring nz native orchids

Native N.Z. Orchids Rare Stamps -
World Stamp Exhibition 1990


NZ Post issued a collection of New Zealand 40c stamps, showcasing four native orchids:

Sun Orchid (Thelymitra pulchella)

Spider Orchid (Nematoceras macranthum, previously Corybas macranthus)

Winika Orchid (Winika cunninghamii, previously Dendrobium cunninghamii)

Greenhood Orchid (Pterostylis banksii)

The botanical stamps were designed by L. Fisher of Auckland.

Sadly we dont get to use these precious and protected orchids, but joyfully we embrace the season of NZ grown cymbidium orchids. New Zealand has a strong export market of these beautiful orchids, and you will find these in season and in store from April, throughout the winter months usually until November.
N.Z. grown cymbidium orchids are a fabulous cut flower - and last for weeks.
Here is our full range of NZ Orchids, we can Deliver in Season >

 


 

3) What is the National Flower of N.Z.?

Does NZ officially have a National Flower?
New Zealand does not actually have an official national flower, but the Silver Fern (Cyathea dealbata), which appears on NZ Army, Air Force and Navy Uniforms, and of course famous around the world on sporting team uniforms, such as the All Blacks, Black Caps & White ferns national sports teams, is an unofficial national emblem.
It nearly even became a symbol on a new flag in 2016!

Ponga - The Silver Fern - An iconic symbol of New Zealand.

The silver fern has been accepted as a symbol of New Zealand's national identity since the 1880s. To Māori, the elegant shape of the fern fronds (Ponga) stood for strength, stubborn resistance, and enduring mana. To Pākehā (New Zealanders of non-Māori descent), the silver fern symbolised their sense of attachment to their homeland and is one of NZ's most well known native plants.

The Ponga Fern has a distinctive, silver-gray foliage that is shaped like a fan. The ponga does not produce flowers, but instead reproduces through spores that are located on the undersides of the silvery fronds. As well as the silver fern leaf, New Zealanders also relate to the symbolism of the Koru - the unfurling bud of this tree fern.

Tree ferns have a long history of use by Maori, who used the plant for a variety of purposes, including making baskets, clothing, and bedding. Today, the ponga is still an important part of New Zealand's culture, and is used as a symbol of the country's identity and pride. Read More from Te Papa >

However, if New Zealanders got to vote today on a National Flower - there would be strong competition between the Kōwhai and Pōhutukawa, as these are the most popular and well known of our native flowers.

all blacks silver fernsilver fern depicted for nurses brigade uniforms2016 Silver fern option for new flag debate

 


 

4) What is the Beautiful Yellow New Zealand Flower?

Kōwhai (Kōwhai Sophora)
Yellow Kowhai Flowers NZ

I vote for Kōwhai!
Beautiful yellow Kowhai flowers are one of the most recognizable blooms in New Zealand, and is this florists personal favourite of all the native flowers.
There is just something about the delicate yellow blooms - often filled with chattering Tui, and the delicate, graceful foliage that just makes your heart sing.

The name "Kōwhai" comes from the Māori word for "yellow," which refers to the bright yellow flowers that the tree produces in late winter and early spring. Kowhai has a short flowering season so make sure you get out there and see some of these gorgeous yellow trees while they are in bloom.

What is the Flower of Auckland New Zealand?

According to the NZ Department of Conservation, Kowhai is the Native Flower of Auckland and its another of our unofficial national flowers.  I think it might be time for a NZ Native flower referendum! :)

Where is the best place to see Kowhai Flowers in Auckland?

In Auckland, the best places to view Kōwhai Flowers are Wai-Kōwhai (Bay of the Kōwhai trees) on the shores of the Manukau Harbour - a beautiful spot - with the largest native forest block left in Auckland City. You will also see multiple Kereru and Tuis here, it's a really great urban forest park.
Other great viewing walks to see yellow kōwhai flowers in spring are: Mangemangeroa Kōwhai Path in East Tamaki, and there is a lovely floral display at Auckland Botanical Gardens and Cornwall Park.

Kōwhai trees are found throughout New Zealand, and are especially common in the North Island. The trees can grow up to 10 meters tall and have a distinctive yellow-green bark.
The flowers are trumpet-shaped and hang in clusters from the branches, and are an important food source for native birds such as tui and bellbirds.

Do you use Kowhai Flowers in the Florist Shop?

Sadly Native Kōwhai Flowers are not used daily in the florist shop, as they do not last as a cut flower. I have however arranged them last minute in funeral casket spray designs, (read more below) and am very happy to see that we are seeing more native foliages come through the local flower market.
The Kōwhai leaves & branches look very elegant in Bouquets with their beautiful leaves and curly seed pods.

Next time you need to Send Flowers, why not choose a Bouquet from our NZ Flowers Collection? >

 


 

5) The New Zealand Red Christmas Flower

Pōhutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa)
Crimson Pohutukawa Flowers NZ

The Pōhutukawa is another iconic New Zealand flower, and I really had to toss up between this and the Kowhai as my personal favourite.

Pōhutukawa is often referred to as the "New Zealand Christmas tree" due to the fact that it blooms in December - the perfect way to say "Miri Kirihimete" (Merry Christmas in Maori).

The flowers are bright crimson red, and grow in fluffy clusters at the ends of the branches, creating a striking display against the slivery green leaves of the tree.

Pōhutukawa trees are found along the coast of the North Island, and are often seen growing on cliffs and rocky outcrops. The trees are well-adapted to the harsh coastal environment, and are able to withstand strong winds and salt spray.

Pōhutukawa flowers are an important source of nectar for birds and bees, and the tree itself provides shelter for a variety of animals.

Where can you see the best Pōhutukawa Flowers Display?

Project Crimson is the official organisation that is working on protecting and promoting the beautiful Pōhutukawa and Rata Trees. Here is their list of Crimson Trails - which are the best places in New Zealand to see a spread of the beautiful fluffy red Pōhutukawa Flowers.

Do you use Pōhutukawa Flowers in the Florist Shop?

Again Pōhutukawa is not a long lasting cut flower, but can be tucked in last minute to funeral work. (read more below) ... but ... we do often arrange with the gorgeous grey green pohutukawa leaves, the pōhutukawa buds, and the nuts left after flowering is finished. These native elements can all be used as foliages, and design accents amongst our bouquets and arrangements.
Our florists love being able to incorporate native flora in our flower displays.

Can you make a Pohutukawa Christmas Wreath?

To make the perfect NZ Christmas Wreath you can definetly use Pohutukawa Flowers - but because it dosen't last as a cut flower, you need to add it very last minute.

It' is best to have a wreath structure made first, ( you could use vine wreaths, or perhaps an artificial wreath as a base to feed into) and then try and add the pohutukwa in water tubes right before you want it to be displayed and admired.

A wreath of Pohutukawa flowers would look fabulous mixed in with bunny tails, other native foliages, twists of rimu, shells, and anything you can forage to make an interesting and unique NZ Christmas wreath.
I have also used festive red Pohutukawa flowers and added them on the day to my Xmas Table Arrangements, Wreaths and family decorations at Christmas - the flower won't last long, but it is so perfectly NZ Christmas that it works anyway!

BLOG Post - New Zealand Christmas Flowers >

 


 

6) Beautiful Manuka Blossoms - Why do Bees love these NZ flowers for making UMF Honey?

Mānuka (Leptospermum scoparium)
Manuka blossom Flowers NZ

The Mānuka tree is an important part of New Zealand's native flora, and is valued for both its beauty and its medicinal properties.

Mānuka is a small tree or shrub that is found throughout New Zealand, and is known to be healing and anti bacterial.

Mānuka flowers are small white or pink blossoms that grow in clusters at the ends of the branches. There are also modern cultivars of manuka that are dark burgundy & cerise colours which are so pretty in our floristry.
Mānuka trees are also known for their distinctive, aromatic leaves, which are used to make herbal tea, ti tree oil, and other herbal remedies.

UMF Mānuka honey, which is made from the nectar of the mānuka flower, is highly prized for its anti-bacterial properties. This special N.Z. made medicinal honey is used in a variety of natural remedies and is also a popular ingredient in skincare products. Manuka honey is one of New Zealands unique export horticulture products.

 


 

7) Harakeke and Woven Flax Flowers - Here is a New Zealand native we use every day in our Florist Shop

Flax (Harakeke)
Flowering Flax Flowers NZ

Flax, or harakeke, is one of our most ancient plant species found in New Zealand, and is known for its strong, fibrous leaves.

Flax plants produce tall spikes of flowers that range in color from yellow to red, and are an important food source for native birds such as tui and bellbirds.

Harakeke was traditionally used by Maori for a variety of purposes, including clothing, kete (woven bags) shelter, and fishing nets. The strong fibers of the plant were woven together to create durable, waterproof fabrics that could be used for a variety of purposes including woven tukutuku panels in Marae.
Today, flax is still used by artisans and craftspeople to create a variety of objects, from weaving kete baskets, cloaks and, wall hangings.

At Best Blooms Florist, we enjoy using flax as part of our floristry every day. We use flax spikes in arrangements, we roll flax leaves into interesting shapes to use in our designs, our florists weave flax flowers to include in bouquets to give them a Kiwiana feeling, and we use flax kete baskets to make unique New Zealand flower arrangements.

Using flax and other NZ foliages is a great way we can create a native NZ Bouquet, as you have read above - most of our endemic flowers sadly don't last long enough as cut flowers for our florists to use in daily florist shop deliveries.

Here are some of our NZ Kiwiana Style Arrangements - See more on our NZ Flowers Page >

 


 

8) Unique Kākābeak - A Striking Red Flower, named after the native NZ Red Parrot

Kākābeak (Clianthus)
Kaka beak Flowers NZ

Kākābeak is a striking plant that is found only in New Zealand, and is known for its bright red, tubular flowers.
Kākābeak grows as a shrub or small tree, and is found in a variety of habitats, including forest margins and rocky outcrops.

The Kākābeak is named after the native parrot, the kaka, which is known for its curved beak. The plant's flowers resemble the beak of the kākā, and are an important source of nectar for native birds such as tui and bellbirds.

The Kākābeak is also a popular ornamental plant, and is often grown in gardens and parks throughout New Zealand.

 


 

9) New Zealands Native Buttercup

Mount Cook Lily (Ranunculus lyallii)
Mt Cook Lily Flowers NZ

The simple but beautiful white flower of the Mount Cook Lily, also known as the Ranunculus lyallii, is a rare and classic bloom, that is found only in alpine regions of New Zealand's South Island.

This white flower was named after Sir David Lyall, a naturalist who discovered the plant in 1857.

The Mount Cook Lily has large, pure white petals that surround a central cluster of yellow stamens. In the ranunculus family, they really do look like a big white buttercup.

This white flower blooms in late spring and early summer, and is often seen growing in rocky, alpine environments such as Aoraki (Mount Cook). This endemic plant is considered to be endangered, and is protected under New Zealand law.

 


 

10) Sweet smelling Clematis - Puawananga

Clematis Paniculata (Puawananga)
Native Clematis Flowers NZ

NZ Clematis, also known as puawananga in Māori, is a climbing flowering plant that is found throughout New Zealand.

Clematis plants produce large, white or cream-colored flowers that have a sweet, honey-like fragrance. As flowering finishes they turn into striking fluffy seed heads.

NZ clematis are unique as they have seperate male and female flowers on different plants, which makes them dioecious.

Clematis flowers bloom in late spring and early summer (thats from October onwards in NZ), and are an important source of nectar for native birds and insects.

Clematis was traditionally used by Māori for medicinal purposes, and was believed to have a range of healing properties. Today, the plant is popular with gardeners and is often grown on trellises or walls to create a beautiful, climbing display.

 


 

11) Hebe - Named after the Greek Goddess of Youth.

Hebe (Veronica sepciosa)
Blue hebe Flowers NZ

Hebe is a genus of plants that is found throughout New Zealand, and is known for its colorful, tubular flowers.

Hebe flowers range in color from white, pink, blue & purples, and bloom in late spring and early summer. Hebe plants are also valued for their attractive foliage, which ranges from dark green to silvery gray. They are a lovely hedging plant in your garden.

Hebe was named after the Greek goddess of youth, and the plant is valued for its ability to rejuvenate itself after being pruned or damaged.

This easy-to-grow plant is popular with gardeners throughout Aotearoa, and there are many different cultivars available that vary in size, shape, and colour.

 


 

12) Native Toetoe Grass - Not to be confused with the pesky Pampas Grass

Toetoe
NZ Toi toi grass (not pampas grass)

Toetoe grass is quite distinct from the pest plant which is Pampas grass. As beautiful as it is Pampas grass really is a pest to our native bush, and environment.

Did you know that we are not legally allowed to use Pampas Grass in the florist shop? There is a list of banned plants (introduced to NZ) that we are not allowed to sell, distribute, buy through the flower auction or use in our florist designs, and unfortunately Pampas Grass is on this banned plant list.

Be enviromentally aware when asking your florist to use this grass in your wedding displays as it is not the best environmental choice. The seeds are so fine, spread easily and are invasive to our beautiful whenua. Ensure your wedding florist chooses the native endemic Toetoe grass instead.

How do you tell Toetoe and Pampas Grass apart?

Pampas grass was introduced to New Zealand from South America, and has upright dense fluffy white/pink or purple flower heads in bloom from January to June.
Native Toetoe grass produces a light golden curved flower head in bloom from September to January.

 


 

13) Stunning Blue Flowers - Chatham Island Forget-me-Nots

The Chatham Island Forget-me-not (Myosotidium hortensia)
Blue Chatham Island Forget me not Flowers NZ

Blue flowers are my absolute favourite, and these gorgeous blue blooms are a stunning variety.

A species of flowering plant in the Boraginaceae family. Mysotidium hortensia is native to the Chatham Islands, a group of islands off the east coast of New Zealand's South Island.

This native plant is notable for its large, lush leaves and its striking blue flowers, which bloom in late spring and summer. The flowers are arranged in clusters at the top of tall stems that can reach up to 1.2 meters in height.

The Chatham Island forget-me-not is often grown as an ornamental plant in gardens and regional parks, and is prized for its beauty and uniqueness. In its native environment, Chatham Island forget-me-nots are considered endangered due to habitat loss and invasive species.

Conservation efforts have been made to protect and restore populations of the forget me not plant, including the establishment of a protected area on the Chatham Islands.
Over the years, I peresonally have tried numerous times, and in different Auckland gardens to grow these beautiful flowers, but so far have not had any luck. I love these blue flowers so will keep trying - hopefully one day, I will have success in growing them.

 


 

14) How I have used NZ Native Flowers in Funeral Casket Sprays.

Native NZ Casket Spray flowers at Funeral

One of the most poignant ways that I use NZ native foliages in my floristry, is by creating unique NZ natives funeral casket sprays, where we forage and collect native leaves and greenery such as Rimu, Kawakawa, Puriri, Karaka and puka leaves, kauri cones, flax flowers, astilbe, branches and anything currently in flower to create a special funeral tribute of NZ natives.

Native New Zealand Flowers arranged in Casket Spray

Best Blooms Florist is very fortunate to be located in West Auckland, home of the beautiful Waitakere rainforest where there is a wide diversity of native trees and flowers for us to collect.

Although these natural casket sprays are not full of flowers as such, they are an amazing way to bring a beautiful NZ rainforest feeling to our designs. No two are ever the same - each one is absolutely unique based on what is available, and in season at the time of making your flowers.
They have been a popular option for nature lovers, trampers and hikers and others who love NZ bush, flora and fauna.

We are happy to take bespoke orders for these native flora casket sprays to create a unique NZ native floral tribute to your loved one.
Call and ask to speak to Jo direct on +64 09 838 9058

 


 

Conclusion

In conclusion, native New Zealand flowers are an important part of the country's rich and diverse flora. From the iconic Kowhai and Pohutukawa flowers to the rare and beautiful Mount Cook Lily, these endemic NZ plants are valued for their beauty, cultural significance, and ecological importance.

Although we don't really get to use native NZ flowers every day within the florist shop at Best Blooms, I do see more native NZ foliages coming through the flower market and i hope that we will become more appreciative of our own unique greenery. There is a resurgance in interest in our native biodiversity and we even now have a national public holiday in Matariki, which we celebrated last year with a special Matariki flower design.

Whether you are a gardener, a nature lover, or simply interested in the natural world, exploring New Zealand's native flowers is sure to be a fascinating and rewarding experience.


Jo-Ann Moss
Senior Florist
Best Blooms NZ

 

 

More Information on Seasonal NZ Flowers:


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Jo-Ann Moss - Senior Florist  |  15 March 2023, 11:15 PM

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