Botany trip, Lowry Bay Scenic Reserve
Sunday 22 March 2020
After the morning’s damp forecast, we were pleased that the sun shone and the sky was clear as we started at the Cheviot St Track entrance. Here we examined the red branchlets and the wavy-edged leaves of māpou/Mysine australis and the larger, scented, wavy-edged leaves of tarata/lemonwood/Pittosporum eugenioides. On to the bridge, in the normally boggy area by the stream we admired the huge kahikatea and mataī of this regenerating coastal podocarp/broadleaved forest, comparing their foliage. Kiekie/Freycinetia banksia was abundant.
Many young plants of kohekohe/Dysoxylum spectabile indicated pest-control success in the reserve. Māhoe/Melicytus ramiflorus is abundant in the bush because possums don’t like it.
Differences between the tree-fern genera Cyathea and Dicksonia were outlined. Soft fronds for the former and harsh for the latter, along with the sporangia positions were mentioned. Here we had only ponga/C. dealbata and mamaku/C. medullaris to look at. The trunks of mamaku have round, flat scars left from fronds and ponga have ‘pegs’ you can hang your hat on. The uses of the midrib of mamaku fronds are numerous, Kair adding that after scraping the scales off it can be eaten raw or cooked and can also be sliced thinly and placed on the skin as a sunburn relief. In an emergency the koru is easier to use than a mature frond, but taking only what is needed and the plant can give. Mamaku’s scales were used as tinder for fire lighting.
First sighted by Kair as being something different, we saw a fine specimen of the uncommon ewekuri/large-leaved milk tree/Streblus banksii. A few deeply-lobed leaves had retained that juvenile shape while most leaves were more typically adult form of oval with margins of small rounded teeth. We did not break any branches to show the milky sap from which the tree’s name is derived.
Apparent inconsistencies can make plant identification difficult. With a maire rauriki/white maire/Nestegis lanceolata we could see that the leaf arrangement was sometimes opposite and sometimes apparently alternate because one leaf of an opposite pair had fallen off.
At ground level we saw the indigenous climbing clubmoss/Lycopodium volubile, with its flattened two rows of yellow-green leaves on its spreading branchlets and wiry stems climbing banks and the bottom of tree trunks. Never to be confused with the darker green introduced African clubmoss/Selaginella kraussiana which fragments easily when picked. Fortunately, we saw none in this reserve. On a sun-facing stretch, we saw numerous sun orchid/Thelymitra sp. ripening pods, while on shady banks we spotted the tiny herb Nertera sp. Sedges were present of course - our well-known curse with little hooks, Carex uncinata and the much larger Gahnia setifolia.
Along banks in particular, ferns of various Blechnum species present displayed numerous fertile fronds, looking more like fish skeletons and distinctly different from the separate sterile fronds. We talked about the variation of frond shapes and sizes of pānako/thread fern/Blechum filiforme as it scrambled over the ground and well up tree trunks.
Reaching the turn-off to the Pt Howard Track, we found a huge kānuka/Kunzea robusta about 35 cm diameter at breast height, its trunk covered in ota/leather-leaf fern/Pyrrosia eleagnifolia. The look-out was an ideal place for lunch. Our descent was via the Pt Howard Track where just before emerging we saw a large ti-kōuka/cabbage tree/Cordyline australis, its trunk also about 35 cm diameter, and also supporting leather-leaf fern.
The Dillon St track in delightful black and hard beech/Fuscospora solandri and F. truncata sported a carpet of young seedlings following the mast years. And it’s hard to miss the huge coil of kaihua/NZ jasmine/Parsonsia heterophylla stem at boot level, easily 7 cm thick, on entering this track.
The day was entertaining, with Marris and Alan making many witty quips. To end our trip, we stopped at Compass Coffee, Seaview Marina, having our drinks on the pontoon while the gulls and ducks kept beady eyes on us. Our names and contact details were recorded in the book on the counter. It was to be our last outing for a while.
- Party members
- Michele Dickson (co-leader and scribe) & Chris Horne (co-leader), Alan Benge, Kair Lippiatt, Marris Weight