T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Hebe speciosa (Napuka)

Kingdom: Plantae
(Unranked): Angiosperms
(Unranked): Eudicots
(Unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Plantaginaceae
Genus: Hebe
Species: H. speciosa
Binomial name: Hebe speciosa
Maori Names: Napuka, Titirangi 
Common name: Hebe speciosa 'Napuka'

Hebe speciosa is found in the North and South Islands. In the North Island it is only known from west coast, formerly from Scots Point to Urenui. In the South Island it was from several sites in the Marlborough Sounds. It now only known from outer South Head (Hokianga Harbour), Maunganui Bluff, near Muriwai Beach, at two sites on cliffs west of Aotea Harbour, Mokau and at Titirangi Bay (Marlborough sounds). Its habitats are coastal cliffs and headlands, in low windswept scrub and flaxlands. Found rarely under taller trees.

Hebe speciosa is one of the most spectacular of New Zealand's Hebe species. The large magenta flowers mark it out from a genus where flowers are more typically muted tones of lilac, mauve, blue or white. Napuka was made known to science in the early 1834 when Richard Cunningham was taken by Maori guides to see it at Te Arai Te Uru (Outer South Head, Hokianga Harbour in the North Island). Not long after, the species reached Europe where it was one of the first hebes to be used for plant breeding within the genus. So successful has this been that many garden centres now stock cultivars and hybrids involving this species, though few actually market the true species. 

It is a spreading to somewhat sprawling shrub up to 2 x 3 m. Its branches are spreading to sprawling, rarely erect; often layering on contact with ground. It has thick fleshy leaves dark green leaves 5 cm long, with a rather smart margin.
It produces beautiful large bright purple / red flowers on pedicels up to 5 cm long. These are produced abundantly for months. Plants are rarely without flowers at any time of the year.

Hebe speciosa may be found in flower throughout the year.