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New Zealand Kaka Beak and Kowhai

Kaka Beak

Jiancheng Song

Institute of Molecular BioSciences,
Massey University,
Palmerston North
Email: j.song@massey.ac.nz

Dr. John Clemens, IMBS, Massey University
Prof. Paula E. Jameson, IMBS, Massey University
Dr. Garry K. Burge, Crop and Food Research, Palmerston North


My PhD project is based on the conservation genetics of kaka beak (Clianthus) and New Zealand kowhai (Sophora) in answering the following questions: What is the genetic relationship among wild populations? When are flowers formed and what are the molecular mechanism of floral development? How long do cut flowers last in a vase and how can their life be prolonged?

Kaka beak is a genus endemic to New Zealand. It is critically endangered, with less than 120 plants in very small, scattered populations between East Cape and Hawke's Bay. Kowhai (Sophora) is one of the New Zealand's most beautiful trees flowers. At least seven species are described as native species of New Zealand. Little is known about the genetic relatedness of wild populations of kaka beak and species of New Zealand Kowhai. We also know little about their flowering physiology and the molecular mechanisms.

For kaka beak, genetic analyses using ISSR and RAPD revealed that the further apart the populations the more distantly they are related. However, C. puniceus is closely related to some populations of C. maximus. Inflorescences initiated from summer to autumn, but most flowers abort unless they are formed around May. Postharvest treatments prolong the attractive life of cut flowers from 4-5 days to 14-15 days. For most kowhai species, Inflorescences and floral buds initiated in October and developed rapidly. Individual flower buds ceased to develop in December and remained inactive until August, when floral organs restart to develop quickly before full bloom in September. Postharvest treatments have little effect on vase life. Sequences of genes controlling flower initiation and development in kowhai and kaka beak, such as homologous of LEAFY, APETALA1, PISTILLATA and AGAMOUS have been partially determined using PCR sequencing strategy and degenerate primers. Temporal and spatial expression of these genes is under investigation using real time PCR and in situ hybridisation techniques.