Bell's Track Working Group
Here's the Bells Track working group Nature Space webpage. Anyone interested in joining this group can contact Muriel Christianson -> mailto:muriel [period] christianson [snail] xtra [period] co [period] nz
Here are some photos taken in late March 2015. These show some of the new growth, particularly cabbage trees doing well near the bottom of the track, and the developing picnic area up near the ANZ seat at the top of our planting area.
Bell's Track July 4th 2013 Update from Muriel
Impact of Drought On 25th May, the Bell’s Track working party got together and looked over the planting from 2012. While a number of plants had succumbed to the drought, the large majority survived surprisingly well. The ground was still notably dry once you went beneath the surface; however, recent rains were helping some plants to regenerate. We cleared gorse and grasses around the base of individual bushes.
Planting Season With assistance from Des Smith and Stan Pillar, planting commenced on Saturday 29th June, 2013. This will continue over the winter and spring months. Stan was able to direct us to a useful waterhole above the ANZ seat at the top of our section of the track.
A group of seven (Muriel Christianson (leader and scribe); Michele Dickson, Liz Martin, Graham Rowe, Sue Rowe, Alan Wright & Terence Wright) collected and carried a number of seedlings up the track, and planted these in either new locations, or replacing plants that had not survived the summer season.
Dates for 2013
The TTC working group meets at 10.30 am at the top of Awarua Street, Ngaio, and works until about 12.30pm on the last Saturday of each month. Plants are organised by Des Smith. Dates for the remainder of 2013 are 27th July; 31st August; 28th September; 2nd November; and 30th November.
Volunteers are welcomed. To help towards regeneration of indigenous plants in this area of Wellington please contact on 479 5269.
Bells’ track March 2013 Update from Des Smith
Tena koutou katoa, hope everyone enjoyed the Easter break and is feeling refreshed. The plants have been ordered for this year and hope to have them delivered at the end of May in time for June planting. With the dry weather we will lose some of last year’s plants but with a walk up the track last week most seem to be holding up well. This weather shows us the value of mulch but now we do not have the land at the bottom of the track for mulch supplies it will be more difficult. If we get some delivered on the road it would need a good team effort to bag it and carry it up to the level of the first seat.
I have been to a meeting on predation control but have not made great headway. This will be one of the most important tasks in our restoration work especially now that we have rata and fuchsia excorticata doing well. They are favourite foods of possums. The idea of placing tracking tunnels has come up so that we can identify the species of predators in the area and hence a programme of control.
Another matter of interest was a lecture on “Predator Free NZ by 2050”. Most interesting with predator free islands and reserves like Zealandia on the main land then the halo effect from these. The most important thing is to get most New Zealanders on board for this. One way to get youth interested is with computer games that build a sanctuary and high scores are achieved by doing it right, or another where a kiwi stomps on the predators. Nevertheless it is alarming how many species we are still losing. Korimako (the bellbird) may be arriving in our area much to my delight as I have been planting for these in the last 30 years. We had Matu, an expert on the korimako, at home recently and he heard the calls not far from our house.
This month’s fauna is stick insects and the flora the totara. What prompted this was the delight shown by our friend from New York who has been observing the insects on our totara. The totara we have is a cultivar Podocarpus totara aurea (the golden totara). Totara is one of the few conifers in the world that can be clipped so is ideal for a small section and you can have fun trimming them into different shapes
I came to the conclusion that more research needs to be done on these insects after readings books and checking internet references. There is conflicting information, however I learnt that there are about 20 species in NZ and they also occur in tropical and subtropical regions. Most of the tropical ones fly but the NZ ones do not. The majority of ours are green and the others brown. They can all survive on manuka but only one species can survive solely on this plant whereas others, if they do not find in a short time the species of plant they are adapted too they will die. Native plants they feed on are rata, pohutukawa, ramarama, kanuka, totara and rimu, and in alpine areas dracophyllum. They will also feed on some introduced species. When present in abundance they can completely defoliate a plant. One article said they are voracious feeders and another said they are not a problem – eating very little. The ones on our totara seem no problem having been evident on them for many years. The species we have appears to be clitarchis hookeri. They can live up to two years but many adults die off at the onset of winter. They breed mostly parthenogenetically (no male required). The females produce eggs that drop to the ground in the leaf litter(can sound like drops of rain ) where the eggs hatch after 2-3 weeks and the juvenile mature after 4 months. They feed mostly at night and will travel great distances to start a new colony elsewhere.
Totara (podocarpus totara)
Totara is found throughout the country. It is one of the five podocarps indigenous to the area. The others being rimu.matai,miro and kahikatea. Podocarps are a conifer and like the pine are wind fertilised, but instead of a cone have a stalk with a fleshy seed hat is eaten by birds and distributed that way. (Pine seeds are wind distributed.) They are dioecious meaning you need male and female, with the female bearing the fruit. Hence the name which comes from Greek meaning fruit with a foot. Podocarps are found throughout the southern hemisphere with a few species in east Asia and central America. The fleshy bases of the seeds of totara change from green through yellow to red. The seeds are black when mature. The bark is thick and stringy. The wood of totara is easily worked and resistant to decay and much used by Maori particularly for canoes. Europeans used it for fence posts, wharf and house piles. Totara was dominant in our hills and some logs up by the summit of Mt Kaukau can still be seen from over 100 years ago. We have now planted a good number on the track so hope it will not be long before they are fruiting.
Bell’s Track runs from the top of Awarua Street, Ngaio, up to join the Skyline Walkway, joining the section of the Walkway between Crow’s Nest above Ngaio, and Mount Kaukau above Khandallah. Des Smith has been organising track regeneration with a focus on plants that are both native and indigenous to the Ngaio area. There are a number of organisations that have taken part in this project.
Tararua Tramping Club have taken responsibility for a small section of this track through 2012, assisting with cutting back of gorse, and removal of Darwin’s barberry, a plant which has a greater impact than gorse, with its fibrous roots taking goodness out of the soil. Darwin’s barberry is notable for its small orange flowers when in bloom. Club members have also assisted with planting of new indigenous seedlings.
At the commencement of summer 2012, notable plants in bloom were the renga renga (athropodium cirratum) with their white flower brackets at the bottom of the track, and the Ti Kouka ( cordyline australis , cabbage tree), with its creamy bunches of flowers that have been planted and can be seen growing successfully in a number of places as you walk up the track. The TTC section of the Track goes to the ANZ seat, about 10 minutes walk up the track. A number of new plantings can be seen here growing through the grass and gorse, which can provide some shelter to new seedlings. From here there is a good view over Wellington Harbour and neighbouring hills.