Thursday digest

And not only is it time for a digest … but it’s Anzac Day (April 25). So here is my rendition of a Flanders poppy (click on the link to read about how the red poppy has become a symbol of Anzac Day). The photo was taken at Te Puna Quarry Park in summer.


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row … Photo: Sandra Simpson

The lines under the photo come from the poem In Flanders Fields written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae of Canada, who was killed in 1918.

Did you know that we had a “national flower”? I didn’t, although I had heard that the kowhai (Sophora) “used to be” New Zealand’s national flower. An online search shows people generally hedging their bets with “widely regarded as”, etc. Te Ara, the online encyclopedia of New Zealand, says we don’t have a national floral emblem, despite the silver fern (Cyathea dealbata) trying to win that title by stealth … and sports.

My Bateman’s New Zealand Encyclopedia (2000) says of Sophora tetrapetra: “It is this popularity which leads many to claim that, if any one of the three species [of kowhai] should become the national flower, it should be S. tetrapetra”.


Kowhai Te Atatu Gold. Photo: Sandra Simpson

To my mind, kowhai flowers look their best against a stormy sky. Hands up anyone who knows which coin the flowers were depicted on? Yes, it was the 2c coin, rather disparaged in this article about a collectors’ edition of two pure silver and one pure gold coins featuring kowhai and kiwi.

But while we may be lacking in a national flower, across The Ditch they not only have a national flower, but state flowers as well.

When I was a young reporter, one of my more senior colleagues on Australia Day (January 26) came out with this piece of Monty Python poetry rendered in a broad Strine accent:

This here’s the wattle
Emblem of our land
You can stick it in a bottle
You can hold it in your hand

Watch the Bruces sketch here (3mins18). Health warning: It’s very silly!

The golden wattle (Acacia pycnantha) was chosen as the national flower in 1988. Read more about the plant here.

To find a list of the rest of Australia’s floral emblems, click here. Queensland’s floral emblem, the Cooktown orchid (Dendrobium phalaenopsis) was chosen by public vote in 1959 as part of the state’s centenary celebrations. Read more about that story and its botanical story here.


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