Seeds and Weeds
21 January 2008
When Alan Knowles returned from climbing in the Wanganui River Valley on the West Coast, his first task was to clean his gear. He said he had developed the habit of meticulously removing mud and plant material from his boots and clothing between tramps to reduce the possibility of spreading seeds and weeds.
He and his companions, Wilfred Dickerson and Clinton Wadsworth, were appalled at the infestations of marsh thistle (cirsium plustre) - up to two metres tall in the valley. The thistle thrived in wet areas like creek beds and boggy river flats. It colonised stands of toitoi that similarly preferred wet feet, forming impenetrable thickets of prickles and cutty leaves.
The marsh thistle, from Eurasia, was first recorded in New Zealand in 1911. It is now widespread throughout New Zealand, and is mainly propagated by wind. “But that doesn't stop me cleaning my gear, as I don't want to be the vector for spreading other weeds into remote valleys.” Alan used tweezers to remove all seeds from his socks, boots and gaiters. His haul of mostly grass seeds from the week-long trip is shown in the accompanying photograph.
“Cleaning my gear, it’s a bit of a chore, but discipline makes it easier. Immediately after a tramp I hose my boots and gaiters to remove wet mud, and finish the job with a stiff brush. If the boots stink I soak them in a bucket of disinfectant before putting them out to dry.”
The trio climbed Mt Whitcombe (2644m) from a camp on Evans Flat and escaped to Smyth Hut as a tropical storm broke dumping 20cm of rain overnight.
- Party members
- Alan Knowles (scribe), Clinton Wadsworth, and Wilf Dickerson