The fifth fabaceous species in this series on the pea family, Clianthus puniceus is a critically-endangered species now only extant on a small island (~5ha or ~12 acres) within a harbour of New Zealand’s North Island. Threats include summer droughts, competition from weeds, and browsing animals, including rodents.
Clianthus is a ditypic genus, containing only two species. The other species, only re-recognized in 2000, was featured in a Botany Photo of the Day entry earlier this year: Clianthus maximus. Like its close relative, the status of Clianthus puniceus in the wild does not necessarily reflect the number of plants carrying the genes. Both species are known in cultivation (including home gardens), although Clianthus puniceus is apparently trending downward in comparison to its more robust sibling.
The same common names can apply to both species; kaka beak (the flowers resemble the beak of the Kākā, a New Zealand parrot), parrot’s beak, parrot’s bill and lobster claw are all used. Clianthus puniceus was scientifically named by botanist Daniel Solander, the first Swedish person to circle the globe and the first university-educated scientist to set foot on Australian soil (he was also the inventor of the Solander box ). For local readers, Solander Island (a closed-to-the-public ecological reserve) was also named (renamed?) in his honour.
More photographs of this small shrubby species (including one of the entire plant) are available via Wildscreen Arkive: Clianthus puniceus. A detailed account of this species is also available from the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network, Clianthus puniceus.