rewarewa, NZ honeysuckle
Vascular – Native
Trees & Shrubs - Dicotyledons
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.
2n = 28
Current conservation status
The threat classification status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2017 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS) – more information about this can be found on the NZTCS website This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2012 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: By Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, John W. Barkla, Shannel P. Courtney, Paul D. Champion, Leon R. Perrie, Sarah M. Beadel, Kerry A. Ford, Ilse Breitwieser, Ines Schönberger, Rowan Hindmarsh-Walls, Peter B. Heenan and Kate Ladley. Please note, threat classifications are often suggested by authors when publications fall between NZTCS assessment periods – a suggested threat classification status has not been assessed by the NZTCS panel.
2017 | Not Threatened
Previous conservation statuses
2012 | Not Threatened
2009 | Not Threatened
2004 | Not Threatened
Tall cylindrical tree bearing masses of dark green jagged leathery leaves and dense spikes of reddish flowers common in regenerating forest of the North Island and Marlborough Sounds. Leaves 10-15cm long by 2-4cm wide, juvenile leaves to 30cm long. New growth covered in reddish fuzz.
Endemic monotypic genus. North and South Islands. Common in the North Island, but confined to the Marlborough Sounds in the South Island.
A common tree of coastal, lowland and lower montane shrubland, secondary regrowth, and on occasion mature forest. Frost-tender when young so generally scarce from cooler, frost-prone habitats - nevertheless it can be very common in suitable sites on the Central Volcanic Plateau of the North Island.
Wetland plant indicator status rating
Information derived from the revised national wetland plant list prepared to assist councils in delineating and monitoring wetlands (Clarkson et al., 2021 Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research Contract Report LC3975 for Hawke’s Bay Regional Council). The national plant list categorises plants by the extent to which they are found in wetlands and not ‘drylands’. The indicator status ratings are OBL (obligate wetland), FACW (facultative wetland), FAC (facultative), FACU (facultative upland), and UPL (obligate upland).
UPL: Obligate Upland
Rarely is a hydrophyte, almost always in uplands (non-wetlands).
Tall tree with columnar (fastigiate) growth-form up to 30 m tall. Trunk up to 1 m diam. Bark dark brown. Branches erect, fastigiate, at first angled, clad in red-brown (rust-coloured), velutinous, tomentum. Juvenile leaves yellow-green, 150-300(-400) x 10-15 mm, narrowly linear-lanceolate, sometimes forked 2,3 or 4 times, margins acutely serrated. Adult leaves dark green, 100-150(-200) x 25-40 mm, broad lanceolate to narrow-oblong or oblong, sometimes obovate, occasionally forked, rigid, bluntly and coarsely serrated, covered in deciduous velutinous red-brown pubescence. Inflorescence a stout raceme up to 100(-180) mm x 60 mm, densely flowered. Pedicels and perianth clad in red-brown, velutinous tomentum. Flowers sexually perfect. Perianth 4, exterior covered in red-brown tomentum, interior dark crimson, segments at first cylindric and fused, soon separating and curling spirally. Stamens 4, filaments crimson, short, anthers long, linear, rich golden-yellow. Ovar sessile. Style long, crimson, long persistent. Fruits, follicles 30-40 mm long, 2-valved, woody, pubescent; valves tapering to persistent style. Seeds 10 mm, apex terminated by 15 mm long wing.
A very distinct tree with no close relatives or “look alikes” within the indigenous, naturalised, or exotic cultivated flora of New Zealand. Easily recognised by the dark red, “bottle brush” like inflorescences, and by the leathery, broad lanceolate, dark green, serrated leaves. All emergent foliage, inflorescences and immature seed pods are covered in a distinctive velutinous, red-brown (rust-coloured) tomentum.
October-January (fruit takes a year to mature, so fruit and flowers may co-occur)
Winged seeds are dispersed by wind (Thorsen et al., 2009).
Easy from fresh seed, Cuttings are very difficult to strike. Young plants are very quick growing but cold-sensitive.
Where To Buy
Not commonly cultivated and inclined to be badly damaged by thrips in some parts of the warmer parts of the country. Offered by some commercial and specialist native plant nurseries. This species should be more widely cultivated, it is very attractive, and the flowers are popular with nectar-feeding birds.
Fact sheet prepared by P.J. de Lange for NZPCN (1 June 2013)
References and further reading
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 11: 285-309
NZPCN Fact Sheet citation
Please cite as: de Lange, P.J. (Year at time of access): Knightia excelsa Fact Sheet (content continuously updated). New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. https://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora/species/knightia-excelsa/ (Date website was queried)