Nelson Nature fortnightly nature fix.
Welcome to the Nelson Nature fortnightly nature fix - a regular snippet about Nelson's natural environment, and what we can do to look after it. If you know anyone who you think might enjoy getting a regular nature fix, please pass this on and encourage them to sign up.
One of many lovely sights in Nelson in spring is the flowering of kowhai (Sophora species) trees along the river and streams, and in our parks and gardens. But as well as being pretty, kowhai flowers and young leaves are an essential food source in the diet of native birds such as the kererū, the tui, and the bellbird.
Kowhai have adapted to many environments throughout New Zealand; for instance Sophora longicarinata has adapted to growing in limestone at the top of the South Island, particularly in Golden Bay. Sophora microphylla, kowhai endemic to the Nelson region is named for its very small leaves.
Maori used the wood of the kowhai for implements such as paddles or adzes as the wood is very hard and long lasting. The bark was applied to wounds as a poultice, or ingested as a tea to treat bruises or broken limbs. The wood ash of the kowhai was used to treat skin conditions, such as ringworm.
Kowhai are easy to propagate from seeds and now is a great time to do your own eco-sourcing of seed to grow your own. Look for the small leaved kowhai and collect the seed pods that follow the flowering. Sometimes you'll see the bright yellow seed already littering the ground beneath the tree.
The seeds need to be scratched lightly on the surface to enable germination, but otherwise require nothing trickier to generate your own small forest of future nectar for our precious birds.
Click here for a guide on how to grow kowhai from seed.