Carmichaelia kirkii


Carmichaelia: after Carmichael, a botanist
kirkii: after Thomas Kirk (18 January 1828 - 8 March 1898), a NZ botanist and lecturer in natural sciences and regarded as a leader of botanical enquiry in NZ for over three decades. One of his most significant publications was Forest flora of NZ (1889) but he also contributed over 130 papers to the Transactions and Proceedings of the NZ Institute and other journals.

Common Name(s)

climbing broom, Kirk's broom

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - At Risk - Declining
2004 - Threatened - Nationally Endangered


2012 - RF
2009 - RF


Carmichaelia kirkii Hook.f.



Brief Description

Sprawling or climbing nearly leafless greyish brown shrub. Twigs many, rounded, slightly grooved. Leaves few except in shaded sites or on young plants. Flowers whiteish with darker purple centre, pea-like, in small clusters. Fruit a small sharp-tipped dry pod partly splitting to release the small white mottled hard seeds.

Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class

Dicotyledonous Trees & Shrubs


Carmichaelia gracilis J.B.Armstr., C. kirkii var. strigosa G.Simpson


Endemic. Eastern South Island, from the Awatere River south to Otago


A plant of moderate to high fertility sites. Usually associated with grey scrub communities particularly those along riverbanks and gorges, or on poorly drained river terraces. It is often associated with totara (Podocarpus totara var. totara) forest, and has also been found in carex dominated wetlands, or within kahikatea (Dacrycarpus dacrydioides ) dominated forest.


Vine 1-3 m tall, usually climbing, scrambling or sprawling, very rarely a bushy shrub. Branches up to 40 mm diameter, ascending and spreading. Cladodes 70-420 x 1.7-3 mm, spreading, sometimes divaricate, linear, striate, terete, green to bronze-green, hairy or glabrous; leaf nodes 4-12. Leaves 1-5-foliolate, present on seedlings and adults, particularly in shaded situations, terminal leaflet larger; lamina 4.5-8 x 2.5-6 mm, obovate to broad-elliptic, fleshy, green to bronze-green, usually glabrous but sometimes sparsely hairy, apex emarginated, base cuneate; petiole 6-25 mm, green or brown-green; petiolule 0.5-0.9 mm, glabrous, light green. Leaves on cladodes reduced to scales. Stipules 0.7-1 x 0.6-0.8 mm, free, triangular. Inflorescence a 1-5-flowered raceme, cladodes bearing 1-3 racemes per node. Peduncle 2-6 mm long, glabrous or hairy, green or red. Bracts 0.5-1.2 mm long, triangular, sparsely hairy. Pedicel 2.5-4 mm long, glabrous or hairy, green or red. Bracteoles 0.5 x 0.3 mm, narrow-triangular, on or near receptacle or lower part of pedicel, green or red. Calyx 4-5 x 2 mm, campanulate, green sometimes flushed red, glabrous or hairy. Calyx lobes 1.5-2 mm, narrow-triangular, green, usually flushed red. Standard 8-9 x 8.5-12 mm, orbicular or board-obovate, patent, positioned in central part of keel, weakly keeled, margins recurved, apex emarginated, rarely mucronulate; central portion of inner surface red-purple, margins white, sometimes purple-veined; outer surface white with a darkened central part. Wings 6-8 x 2.5-3.5 mm, oblong, shorter than keel, apex obtuse; outer surface white, proximal part pale green; inner surface sometimes purple-veined. Keel 8-9 x 3-3.5 mm, apex obtuse; distal part of inner surface red-purple, proximal part white or pale green. Stamens 6-5-8.5 mm long, dorsal filaments fused for ¾ of length, outer stamens free for 2 mm. Pistil 8.5-10 mm long, exserted well beyond stamens; style bearded on upper surface. Pods 12-18 x 4-5.8 mm, broad-elliptic, spreading, dark brown, grey-brown or yellow-brown, both valves partially dehiscent. Beak 3-6 mm long, stout, pungent-tipped. Seeds 2-3.5 x 1.7-2.5 mm, 2-5 per pod, off-white with black or dark purple mottling, broad-elliptic, reniform, oblong-reniform or rounded.

Similar Taxa

Carmichaelia australis R.Br., leafless clematis (Clematis afoliata). Climbing broom has mottled seeds and prominently beaked pods, which persist throughout the year. Carmichaelia australis is a shrub rather than a climber. Clematis afoliata is always leafless.



Flower Colours

Violet / Purple,White


January - June

Propagation Technique

Easy from seed or semi-hardwood cuttings. A beautiful lianoid shrub which is best treated as a climber, or allowed to grow up through another shrub. It does best in full sun, and though tolerant of dry conditions, grows better in moist ground. As with most Carmichaelia this species does not like humidity.


Most C. kirkii populations occur on private land. The species is highly palatable and so vulnerable throughout its range of all browsing animals. Though recent surveys have discovered more populations leading to this species being one of few with a lower threat ranking in 2008 vs that in 2009, at many sites there is no recruitment. Several former populations appear to have gone extinct through excessive collection of specimens by botanists.

Chromosome No.

2n = 32

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Seeds are possibly dispersed by wind and granivory (Thorsen et al., 2009).




Fact Sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 13 June 2006. Description modified from Heenan (1996).

References and further reading

Heenan, P. B. 1996: A taxonomic revision of Carmichaelia (Fabaceae-Galegeae) in New Zealand. Part 2. New Zealand Journal of Botany 34: 157-177

Thorsen, M. J.; Dickinson, K. J. M.; Seddon, P. J. 2009. Seed dispersal systems in the New Zealand flora. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 2009 Vol. 11 No. 4 pp. 285-309

This page last updated on 19 Dec 2014