Native plant identification - Otari -Wilton's Bush - Johnston Hill Reserve
13 November 2010
In ideal weather, we met at the entrance to Otari by the bowling club driveway, and discussed the lists of plants handed to everyone. The lists have plant names in three columns – botanical, Māori, and common names, so people can learn whatever name they choose for a particular species. In addition, the plants are listed in groups such as podocarps, other trees and shrubs, lianes (vines), ferns, orchids, grasses, sedges, herbaceous plants, etc. Participants found Wellington City Council's Otari-Wilton's Bush brochure very useful.
The route in Otari took us through several forest types including regenerating māhoe forest with emergent rewarewa, northern rātā and podocarps, (e.g., Otari's impressive 800-year-old rimu), then kohekohe forest, and finally, young forest regenerating through weeds. Participants learnt to distinguish ponga from mamaku; some of the characteristics shared by the many species of coprosma; the difference between palmate and pinnate leaves; etc. We admired flowers such as peka a waka, the spring orchid, and kaihua/NZ jasmine, and the variety of species of trees and ferns, and sampled the powerful aromas of weeds such as hedge stachys and balm of Gilead. We also commented on the good condition of the forest after more than ten years of possum control. On a track which was re-opened for rodent and mustelid control, we noted that the kohekohe forest canopy became lower as we climbed, and was only 3 - 5 m high in the scrub zone. At the top, we enjoyed the impressive view over the city's hills and harbour, and the Rimutaka Range.
We then sidled southwest on the new Kohekohe Track, which, consistent with the Otari Management Plan, is for pedestrians only, although we encountered two cyclists who had apparently overlooked the 'no bikes' sign. This matter has been raised with Otari's Curator/Manager. Here the forest is regenerating through Darwin's barberry and gorse. Once out of Otari we entered pine forest, where we noted that, except in the gullies, native plants were in the minority.
Once in Johnston Hill Reserve, we were in native forest again and able to reinforce the knowledge we had gained earlier in the day. Along Standen Street, en route to catch the bus, we admired the grass, Chionochloa flavicans, rather like a mini-toetoe, but with curved flower stalks, growing on a bank, and learnt that though it is often seen planted in Wellington, it is not native to this part of New Zealand.
We had a satisfying trip with lots of questions and discussions, along a route with plenty of botanical interest.
- Party members
- Trish Gardiner-Smith, Jenny Hart, Liz Martin, David McCrone, Nina Price, Peter Smith, Chris Horne and Barbara Mitcalfe(co/leaders and scribes).