Kawakawa is a new arrival in my garden. The seeds carried in by the birds from the neighbouring wild garden, which is the ngahere of the Kahurangi National Park.
It has found a home in my garden on this sun leached hillside, nestling in the shadier corners, protected from the seasonal westerly gales and summer glare of the sun's piercing ray's.
Common in coastal forests and scrublands, Kawakawa stands out with its broadly heart shaped leaves and blackish stems swollen at the joints. It's foliage, soft and dark green, tending to lighter sunburnt shades when in the open. It is characteristically eaten by the Kawakawa caterpillar, leaving the distinctive cell patterned leaves. Flowers are minute on spikes with male and female on different plants, resulting in orange fruits, a favourite of the browsing birds.
The strong shape and the resulting delicate pattern of the cell structure attracts me to this leaf. As the caterpillar feeds on the leaf the Kawakawa has evolved to isolate the damage and redirect its energy around the eaten cell to the other cells where the photosynthesis continues, powering the plant to grow and achieve its position in the garden. Resilience in action.
I will take cuttings, collect seeds and propagate Kawakawa. It is so lush and soft to look at and in the summer heat a few leaves added to my teapot is invigorating. A hint to the many medicinal properties first identified and used by Māori and later Pakeha. Today Kawakawa extracts infuse many herbal, beverage, and cosmetic preparations in Aotearoa.
The Kawakawa Necklace is available now. For each order I will plant a Rimu in the Kahurangi as part of my planting program.