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          Wharepuke is a sub-tropical garden in Kerikeri, New Zealand, displaying a collection of generally warm climate plants, originating from many different countries and ranging from arid climate succulents to rainforest trees, including many rare and uncommon, seldom seen in New Zealand. I have a special interest in sub-tropical fruiting plants, dry climate plants, bromeliads and insectiverous plants.


Sinningia leucotricha or Brazilian Eidelweiss

A small growing plant that always draws comment here is a native of Brazil. Belonging to the Gesneriaceae family it is closely related to the African Violet. Also closely related is the Gloxinia of houseplant fame.




The genus is named after a German University of Bonn head gardener who died in 1874. There are about 65 different species which occur from Mexico to South America.

  Sinningia leucotricha develop a large swollen root which helps them survive long periods of drought. It seems they are found growing on rocky cliffs near a waterfall in the west Parana state of Brazil so they would have hot dry summer periods.

  I find that only a few seed pods develop on my plant and these have very fine dust-like seed which germinate well if sown on top of potting mix but damp off easily. In the first year they develop tiny swollen tubers which go dormant over the late winter. In late spring new shoots arise and in older plants flowers form in the centre of these leaves. Interestingly the leaves continue to grow in size as does the stem but the flowers are nearly full size being tubular and a salmon-red colour. In Brazil hummingbirds probably do the pollination as bees would find it difficult to get to the nectar.

 The leaves are the great talking point of this plant as they are covered with long, silky, white hairs which protect the leaves from drying out in drought times. The leaves persist until about June when they start collapsing and fall off.

 The plant lives for a long time as by my estimation my plant is about fifty years old now. It has been in the same container for the last fifteen years and flowers wonderfully each year. In book information it says that the plant should be kept dry over the winter months but mine sits outside all year and doesn’t seem to come to any harm. Good drainage is necessary though.



Moreton Bay Chestnut or Black Bean.

From eastern Queensland and north eastern New South Wales.



This tree has always interested me since I was first given a pod which had come from under the seat of an imported car in 1960. The first time I saw a tree, (it was in full flower), was at North Head near Devonport in the 1970s. This tree was about 12 metres high with a full rounded head and all the flowers were within the canopy so it gave me the feeling of being inside a dome covered with yellow and orange flowers. Very beautiful.

  I planted some seed at my first house from the Devonport tree and now one of these trees is flowering well each year. There are not many trees around the country so it is always a pleasure to see one during the summer flowering time.



The Moreton Bay Chestnut (Castanospermum australe) belongs to the Legume family and this means it has pealike flowers which look as if they have been carved out of yellow and orange wax. It also sets, with the help of symbiotic bacteria, nitrogen nodules on the roots which help to make nitrogen more available to surrounding plants.

  The 3 to 5 seeds are carried in a large green, turning brown when ripe, cylindrical pod which opens to two canoe like halves at full maturity. The seeds are poisonous though Aboriginal people knew how to treat them to give them a chestnut flavoured meal.  For some reason seed, for all the time I have known of it, has not been allowed to be imported into New Zealand.

The tree can stand light shade or full sun. It will stand only light frost and is best in free draining, deeper soils with regular water and not fully exposed to wind.

  The timber is beautiful but will not last outside.



Moreton Bay Chestnuts are used, particularly in Australia, as a glossy compound-leafed house plant which is usually grown from seed.



I was lucky enough to have been given two mango trees a few years back. These trees had been grown in large bags inside a plastic house and one settled in well into its open ground situation, the other is struggling. If we have a cold, wet autumn they do not like it as they are reasonably tropical trees and do not like cold, wet conditions. There were two settings of fruit on one of the trees and they are forming well but too late in the season to ripen properly.



 Mangoes originate from India, south-east Asia, Australia and the Solomon Islands. They belong to the Cashew and Rhus and Poison Ivy family and there are up to thirty species in the family.

  Mangifera indica, the mango of commerce, of which there are more than 300 cultivars, comes from around Myanmar and eastern India and is a popular fruit through all the warm climates of the world. The warm parts of New Zealand are very borderline for growing them and I only know of a few trees growing outside in the north.



  The plants are very attractive, especially in a growth flush, when beautiful, shiny, red leaves appear. They harden off to a shiny green. Blooms are masses of small, cream to pinkish, musky-scented flowers which occur over dry periods which in their homelands is winter. This is a problem in the north as we have so much rain then. Only one or two fruit in a flower cluster grow to maturity as many fruit tend to abort prematurely.



  Mangoes prefer a free draining soil with periods of wet and dry times. A dry time triggers flowering and wet a growth flush. In a plastic or glass house this is the way to control the fruiting of the plant. Pruning to keep the plant to about four metres and bushy is now regarded as the best technique for cropping trees which lends itself to inside cultivation.

 Persons who suffer allergies should be careful when handling mangoes as they may react to the allergen in the skin and to a lesser degree in the flesh.

 If anyone knows where a tree is growing and fruiting well could they let me know.


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