Keep an eye out for kakabeak

Department of Conservation —  22/09/2014

By DOC’s Leigh-Anne Wiig

Calling all hunters, trampers, rafters and bush bashers!

If you’re out and about in the bush this spring, keep a sharp look out for one of our most striking native plants, the critically endangered ngutukākā/kakabeak.



DOC is working with Forest Lifeforce Restoration, to prevent the extinction of ngutukākā. Together, we’re asking people to help spot the plants and report their position back to DOC, preferably with the help of a GPS reader and a couple of photos.

This is the best time of year to spot ngutukākā because the plants are heavy with spectacular bunches of bright red, curved flowers that resemble the shape of a kākā’s beak (hence its name).

Ranger Don with a wild kakabeak plant near Gisborne.

Ranger Don with a wild kakabeak plant near Gisborne

The plants have a whole host of enemies, including goats, deer, rabbits—who find their tasty pods irresistible—and a range of insect pests.

Sadly, there are fewer than 120 naturally seeded plants known to exist in the wild—mainly around northern Hawke’s Bay, East Cape and inland to Waikaremoana.

The surviving plants tend to be found clinging to cliff faces or on bluff systems where goats haven’t been able to reach.

Wild kakabeak plant.

Wild kakabeak plant

We really appreciate the groups and individuals who help search for ngutukākā, as this significantly boosts the chance of finding new wild plants.

Once we know where they are, we can actively manage these plants and help them thrive in the wild.

Many people don’t realise how rare ngutukākā are, because you often see them in home gardens. But the domestic plants are all derivatives of a few wild plants that have been interbred and have little or no genetic value.

Any new find in the wild is significant because it widens the gene-pool of wild-grown seed that can be used in propagation efforts.

Typical kakabeak habitat in the Ruakituri.

Typical kakabeak habitat in the Ruakituri

The most recent find was on a field trip to Ruakituri, in inland Hawke’s Bay, when 18 wild plants were discovered, where previously only six were known to exist. So there’s hope yet!

Any help you can give to locate this floral gem is much appreciated.

Keep your eyes peeled for those stunning red flowers in the wild and spread the word to others!

2 responses to Keep an eye out for kakabeak

    Thelma Boyce 09/10/2014 at 5:38 pm

    ve Hi There< I have 2 kakabeaks growing in the garden here in South canterbury- one red, one green.-are they the ones you want ? do you want seeds , or someone to come and look at them to see if they are the right ones! I have been a F&B member for 39 years. get in touch Thelma Boyce Ph 036158310 or email

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