Parataniwha / NZ Begonia
Typically grows in damp shaded places. The Māori name means “home of the taniwha” – a mythical monster. This refers to it frequently being found in damp gullies, at the foot of waterfalls, and in similar places of isolated intrigue where a taniwha might hide.
Young leaves red on the upper side use the red as a sunscreen for protection. Older leaves with red only below use the colour to reflect light that has passed through the leaf back up, to get maximum benefit in photosynthesis.
Grows to 1m high. Characterised by its rough, heavily-furrowed leaves with strongly serrated edges. New leaves are bronze/red. Stems are fleshy. Forms clumps by spreading.
Makes for an eye-catching display in a cool, shaded spot. South-facing banks or even green-walls would benefit from this splash of leaf colour. Good also for revegetation in places too dark for many other plants to readily establish.
Plant while bearing in mind its natural tendency for shaded streamside and gully sites – North Island only.