Rare red ku­mara flow­er­ing in Auck­land

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - HUGH COLLINS

The very rare event of a ku­mara flow­er­ing has oc­curred in an Auck­land gar­den.

David Singh’s gar­den in Free­mans Bay has seen a flower ap­pear from the vine of a red ku­mara - an event so rare a ku­mara farmer of 30 years has never seen it hap­pen.

Singh said look­ing on­line he learned the red ku­mara very sel­dom flow­ers.

‘‘We are very sur­prised, it’s so rare I don’t think peo­ple hardly see it at all,’’ he said.

Man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Kaipara Ku­mara An­thony Blun­dell has worked with ku­mara for 30 years and con­firmed it was highly rare for the red ku­mara to flower.

‘‘The red and gold [ku­mara], I don’t think in all my years I’ve ever seen them flower,’’ Blun­dell said.

‘‘One of our guys might have seen it once years and years ago.’’ How­ever the orange ku­mara can reg­u­larly flower, he said.

Blun­dell said the red and gold ku­mara orig­i­nated off whal­ing ships in the 1840s.

This was a larger va­ri­ety of ku­mara to the smaller bush vari­ant that the Maori grew, he said.

‘‘What hap­pened in the 1840s when the Euro­pean and Amer­i­can whal­ing ships came out they brought a sweet potato from South Amer­ica.’’

Plant breeder at Plant and Food Re­search Steve Lewth­waite said ku­mara don’t flower of­ten in New Zealand be­cause they are a trop­i­cal veg­etable.

How­ever the ku­mara pos­si­bly flower when they are un­der stress, Lewth­waite said.

‘‘It’s usu­ally this time of year when the day length is short­en­ing and usu­ally some­thing is stress­ing the plant,’’ Lewth­waite said.

He said it was more com­mon to see the ku­mara flower up north un­der the more reg­u­lar drought con­di­tions that can oc­cur.

David Singh with the rare flower.

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