Critter of the month – October/Whiringa-ā-nuku
The Wai Tuwhera o te Taiao critter of the month for October/Whiringa-ā-nuku is the kaikōmako tree.
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Wait a second, that’s not a critter… it’s a plant! But like all species in an ecosystem, the kaikōmako tree is connected with a web of critters and other organisms. We think for supporting the many critters in their bubbles, kaikōmako deserve a shout out.
One of these connections is revealed in its name, with kai meaning food and kōmako a name for the bellbird. The small forest tree produces creamy white flowers in the summer that give way to purple-black fruit in the cooler months to keep the bellies of bellbirds and other forest birds full.
The DNA of this tree was found recently in a sample from Kaitawa Reserve on the Kāpiti Coast, perhaps providing some shade to the tuna and banded kōkopu in the stream below.
A close relative of Pennantia corymbose, Pennantia baylisiana or Kaikōmako Manawa Tāwhi/Three Kings Kaikōmako is one of the world’s rarest trees. For a long time, there has been only one lonely tree in the wild. This lone female tree perches above a cliff on the northern face of one of the Three Kings Islands, north of Cape Reinga, but has never released any viable seeds to the wind. Ngāti Kuri and scientists from Manaaki Whenua worked together to produce some seeds from a cutting propagated from the wild plant, and these new trees will be planted with hope that the extinction risk for Kaikōmako Manawa Tāwhi can be reduced.
Kaikōmako/Pennantia corymbose image credit: Melissa Hutchison