Clianthus, commonly known as kakabeak (kōwhai ngutukākā in Māori), is a genus of flowering plants in the legume family Fabaceae, comprising two species of shrubs native to New Zealand. They have striking clusters of red flowers which resemble the beak of the kaka, a New Zealand parrot. The plants are also known as parrot’s beak, parrot’s bill and lobster claw – all references to the distinctive flowers. There is also a variety with white to creamy coloured flowers.
The two species are the critically endangered Clianthus puniceus which is now known in the wild only on Moturemu Island in the Kaipara Harbour, and the endangered Clianthus maximus. In a 2005 survey, only 153 plants of C. maximus were found (down from over 1000 in 1996), mainly in the East Cape region. C. maximus is widely grown as a garden plant in New Zealand, but the cultivated lines are descended from only a few plants and are not genetically diverse. C. puniceus is cultivated and has given rise to award-winning cultivars.
Kakabeak grows to around two metres high, with spreading branches producing leaf stalks up to 15 cm long bearing several pairs of small leaflets. They usually flower from spring through to early summer, but can flower twice a year or even year round.