Honey industry: researchers identify source of Unique Mānuka Factor

University of Waikato researchers have uncovered new insights into how mānuka flowers make nectar and the source of the Unique Mānuka Factor – which could contribute to the high-value New Zealand mānuka honey industry.

The research, published in the international scientific journal New Phytologist, was led by Associate Professor Mike Clearwater, a plant physiologist from Te Aka Mātuatua – School of Science at the University of Waikato.

The research investigated why the nectar producing parts of mānuka flowers, known as nectaries, produce the unique ingredients found in the honey. Nectaries are common in many flowering plants, but only mānuka and a small number of related species produce nectar with the active ingredient found in mānuka honey.

The researchers first noticed that in mānuka (Leptospermum scoparium) the nectaries are green, unlike the colourless nectaries of other flowers. They then showed for the first time that nectary photosynthesis – the plant’s process of using sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to create oxygen and sugar – could contribute to nectar production. This contrasts with many other flowers that produce their nectar sugars entirely within their leaves. Continue reading