Clematis and vines

The white flowering clematis, named puawānanga (Clematis paniculata), is one of the most beautiful New Zealand flowers and was often painted onto postcards by early settlers and posted ‘home’ to Britain. It was sacred to Maori, its name meaning the flower of knowledge or learning, wānanga meaning school. Puawānanga is a vine and the flowers are exposed on top of the canopy.

Other climbing plants are common in the bush. In wet gullies you will see the exceptionally tough black stems of supplejack (Ripogonum scandens, kareao), a relative of asparagus, it is named after its whip-like stems and bears clusters of red berries. It was a very important plant to Maori because the stems were woven to form eel traps (hīnaki), eels being one of the staple foods obtained from rivers, lakes and wetlands.

In spring the native jasmine is in flower with sweetly scented cream-coloured flowers. Another vine in disturbed young forest is a native blackberry, called bush lawyer, owing to its prickles that will catch on the clothing of the unwary. It bears large sprays of creamy flowers followed in autumn by bunches of small orange ‘blackberries’, a delicious forest food.



Bush lawyer—photo Philip Simpson