Kohekohe Love: Kohekohe (Dysoxylum spectabile)

5 March - 30 June 2020
  • Voyage of Discovery (Video)

  • Artwork


  • New Zealand/Aotearoa was the last major landmass to be discovered by humans. The native flora is unique as it evolved in isolation for millions of years. In fact, 80% of the trees, ferns and flowering plants are endemic, found only in New Zealand.

    ‘KoheKohe’ is the Māori name for the beautiful native tree Dysoxylum spectabile. The Kohekohe flowers are rarely seen as the tree doesn't flower every year. When it does blossom, its small white flowers allude to the most exquisite fragrances imaginable. In this artwork, the flowers seem to spell the word ‘love’, hence the title. 


    Kohekohe was the very first plant discovered for Mamakan's current botanical art research for 'Seasons (un)seen’, a project to be premiered from 2020 to 2021 through a series of experiential visuals, soundscapes and bush kai experiments. The flower specimens were collected on the 8th of July 2019, in collaboration with Auckland Museum. Then, the flowers were immersed in water under natural light, referencing the connection between the sea and the sky. Mamakan used handheld movement that allows the plant to change position in the water, sometimes reacting to the water flow or the air bubbles, sometimes doing entirely its own thing. The final result is unique, as the plant, water, sky and movement interact with each other. The fine art photographs were crafted and curated to the four panel constellation "Kohekohe Love". They were printed on sustainable, premium Platine Fibre Rag paper and mounted with museum grade quality Diasec TruLife, for a stunning visual experience.


    This artwork is original and made bespoke for Wisdom and Nature 2020, hosted by Le Ciel Foundation, and will be auctioned by Christie's.


    • Kohekohe Love, 2020 60 x 252 x 4 cm 23 5/8 x 99 1/4 x 1 5/8 in
      Kohekohe Love, 2020
      60 x 252 x 4 cm
      23 5/8 x 99 1/4 x 1 5/8 in
  • Notes from the Curator By Ana Sevilla Perez, Curator and Art Historian, Mamakan Studio From the strictly botanic point of...
    Ana Sevilla Perez

    Notes from the Curator 

    By Ana Sevilla Perez, Curator and Art Historian, Mamakan Studio


    From the strictly botanic point of view, there are two aspects of kohekohe that make it
    singular: it is a gynodioecious and cauliflorous plant.


    The first one means that its flowers are either hermaphrodite (perfect) or female.
    The second one means that its flowers and fruits grow directly from the trunk in an
    evolutionary effort to feed and be pollinated by animals that can´t fly and need food sources
    that are closer to the ground. That is, an effort to reach all who need it. Among others, the herbal remedies using kohekohe were used to treat female issues, like painful menstruation, fertility and to stop the production of breast milk after the loss of a newborn baby.

    These qualities, botanical and medicinal, refer to a strong feminine attribute of kohekohe. It
    seems as if this plant was embracing and bringing to the world the female energy present in
    nature. Flowers that are mainly female, the generous transformation and adaptation to animal needs, the power to help women; these are properties that speak to us of the nature of a feminine spirit. The ability to bring new life, the power to soothe the physical organs that serve this purpose, the power and intention to nurture all, are universal female qualities that kohekohe reflects gracefully.

  • Botany & History

  • Yumiko Baba, Auckland Museum, on the field trip for Seasons (un)seen on July 8th, 2019

    Yumiko Baba, Auckland Museum, on the field trip for Seasons (un)seen on July 8th, 2019


    By Carlos Lehnebach, Curator of Plants at Te Papa Tongarewa

    Kohekohe was one of the first trees collected in the country by the scientists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, during the first trip of Captain James Cook to New Zealand in 1768. Kohekohe is the only representative in New Zealand of the tree genus Dysoxylum, which is otherwise only found in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Kohekohe trees do not flower every year. Blooming generally occurs during early winter. After pollination of the flowers has occurred, fruits will take up to 15 months to ripen. Thus, you will not see flowers on trees that are currently fruiting or vice versa. Unlike many other trees, Kohekohe flowers sprout from the trunk and branches. This feature is known as cauliflory and it’s believed to be an adaptation to pollination and seed dispersal by animals that can’t fly or insects living at the ground level. Kohekohe trees were once common in coastal and lowland forests of New Zealand.  Nowadays, their number has been reduced due to habitat destruction and damage by possums. A very distinctive tree, which with its large compound green leaves and cauliflorous flowering habit, could not easily be confused with any other indigenous, naturalised or exotic species present in New Zealand. Read more here

  • Kohekohe in Traditional Botanical Art Fanny Malcolm was born at Symonds Street in Auckland in the early years of colonial...
    Kohekohe – Dysoxylum spectabile by Fanny Malcolm

    Kohekohe in Traditional Botanical Art

    Fanny Malcolm was born at Symonds Street in Auckland in the early years of colonial settlement. She spent much of her childhood on Great Barrier Island where her family moved in 1859 to farm cattle. Much of Fanny Osborne's childhood was spent in isolation. She and her siblings were educated by their parents, and early on learned an affiliation with nature. Fanny ran away to Auckland to marry one of the other settlers on Barrier, Alfred Joe Osborne. They eventually returned to Great Barrier. When young, her parents had nurtured the skills she demonstrated with her sketches, and once she could find the time in between looking after her thirteen children, she began painting the wide array of native plant life in watercolour. She may well have produced albums of her watercolours for sale to visitors to the island. This work, bequeathed to the Mackelvie Trust in 2015, demonstrates the delicacy of her touch, her fine sense of colour, and the accuracy of her botanical studies.

  • Exhibitions & Collections

  • Jessie Balfour-Lynn
  • Jessie Balfour-Lynn, Co-founder and Junior Project Manager at Le Ciel Foundation

    Driven to leave behind a positive footprint on this Earth for future generations to live in an era in which humanity and nature co-exist in harmony, Jessie co-founded Le Ciel Foundation with this mission at heart. 


    She is passionate about contributing towards a more ethical, ecologically-minded and conscious global society and is a strong advocate of the role of education in restoring a sense of balance and direction among individuals and communities, for the good of people and planet.


    Her goal is that in her lifetime, respect for the natural world become an inherent consideration in every thought and action. To realise this vision, she does her best every day to bring Le Ciel’s missions to fruition and support the co-creation of tangible, scalable solutions founded on wisdom knowledge.

  • Le Ciel Foundation in partnership with Christie's is hosting Wisdom and Nature, a fundraising exhibition and auction taking place in...

    Le Ciel Foundation in partnership with Christie's is hosting Wisdom and Nature, a fundraising exhibition and auction taking place in New York and London. Bringing together a collection of 55 artworks, generously donated by artists and galleries from around the world, Wisdom and Nature reveals experiences and perceptions of interconnectivity, the beauty of our planet and the wisdom of its people.


    In 2017, Le Ciel Foundation held the first Wisdom and Nature exhibition in London, Paris and New York. Providing an insight into cultures rooted in ancestral traditions and depicting the awe-inspiring Earth on which we all live as one interconnected ecosystem, the exhibition culminated in an auction raising $300,000 in aid of the Foundation. These funds have supported the realisation of several projects, notably, a meeting of twelve wisdom tradition Elders at the United Nations in New York and the Holistic Visions Symposium 2018. Donations of $10,000 were also contributed to the communities of each of the wisdom tradition Elders who took part in The Council of Twelve and AboveFunds raised during Wisdom and Nature 2020/21 will support the realisation of the many exciting initiatives Le Ciel Foundation is working on. 

  • Senses, Art & Emotions

  • A peak into our Panel

    The Panel for Emotions, Art and Senses (PEAS) gets together to experience and discuss the emotions and senses of an artwork.


    In the middle of the Covid-19 lockdown, our panellists of the Panel for Emotions, Art and Senses (PEAS) got together to experience and discuss the emotions and senses of some of the latest botanical artworks from our studio. The panellists represent a wide spectre of creative expression including Theatre, Photography, Gastronomy, Art History and Spiritual Well-being. They are well-traveled and come from France, Italy, New Zealand, The Netherlands, California and the Maldives.  See a snapshot from their dialogue above.  A warm thank you to the panellists at this session (from top left): Antonella Scarabelli (Lead), Marrije Wesseling (Studio Manager), Rita Herban, Aimee Magne, Geneviève Flaven, Ana Sevilla Perez, Lise Baker and Jenefer Espero.

  • Detailed Artworks

    Click to enlarge
  • Emotions and Senses

    "Champagne, lifeforce, fresh, reminds me of children playing and laughing."


    Green, rushing water, fresh, young, whimsy, lifesource, lively, watery, bubbly.



    Cheerful, bubbling expectation, joy, playfulness, child memories, cool, refreshing, the kind of feeling I get when I'm swimming. Very whimsical, fresh, wonderful, reminds me of a life source, starting something; but chaotic at the same time. Reminds me of children playing and laughing.



    Water flowing, electronic music, bubbles, champagne, children playing.



    Fresh like bergamot, watery, soap, intense, citric.



    Jelly, smooth, cool and wet.



    Khaki, Phthalo Green, Golden Brown, Medium Champagne, Middle Green Yellow, Avocado and Bone.

  • Other artworks featuring Kohekohe (Dysoxylum spectabile)