Botany trip, Burrows Avenue Reserve, Karori
Sunday 29 November 2020
Meeting on the corner of Burrows Avenue and Karori Road, Pete greeted us and advised that the nine kererū perched on the lines above him were just finishing their morning service!
How can you spend a whole hour walking up Burrows Avenue? By peering at front gardens and hedges and the common weeds of lawns, the less mown the better. We discussed leaf and flower shapes of dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), catsear (Hypochaeris radicata), common daisy (Bellis perennis), narrow-leaved plantain (Plantago lanceolata), sow thistle / pūhā (Sonchus oleraceus) and white clover (Trifolium repens). De-heading of the aggressive Agapanthus here and there also just quietly happened and the regrowth of hard tree ferns / whekī (Dicksonia squarrosa) from the top of a purpose-built wall of trunks was studied.
By the end of the avenue, light rain had been replaced by sun and we found ourselves downwind of the lovely scent of māhoe flowers (Melicytus ramiflorus). Soon we found the source above us, but also the foul smell of hedge woundwort (Stachys sylvatica), in front of us. We were thus reminded to use all our senses of smell, taste, feel and sight as identification clues. While passing a koromiko (Hebe stricta), Chris told us how the young shoots of this plant are good for controlling diarrhoea, and shipments had been requested by Māori soldiers in wars overseas.
Not far along the track a magnificent kōtukutuku (Fuchsia excorticata) sporting two trunks arching over the track is unmissable. This is one of Wellington’s finest examples, and also nicely exhibits epicormic growth, sprouting new shoots from the trunks. Over the track, kaikōmako / Pennantia corymbosa seedlings reminded us that sometimes both juvenile (with duck’s foot-shaped leaves) and the larger adult leaves can be seen on the same plant, which supports the moa-browsing theory for the two leaf forms. Also, we couldn’t help but notice the masses of ngaio (Myoporum laetum) flowers over large areas of track, indicating a good flowering season.
The presence of lance fern (Blechnum chambersii) displaying new fertile fronds turned our attention to nearby ferns: hen and chicken (Aspenium bulbiferum), gully fern (Pneumatopteris pennigera) and the diverse forms of sterile fronds of thread fern (Blechnum filiforme). Some of these were up to 80 cm long, while also obvious were the narrow fertile fronds, green when new, turning brown later, which will only be found on the tree-climbing habitat of the fern, not on the ground-scrambling sections.
Many seedlings of supplejack (Rhipogonum scandens) prompted observance of the intramarginal veins of the leaves, a feature also found on rātā leaves. Supplejack is one of the only two monocotyledon (one seed-leaf group) vines in Aotearoa. A little farther along, closer to the stream, many flat mats of a dark green, glossy liverwort demanded attention. A quick visit by Julia to the iNaturalist site confirmed it to be the widespread Monoclea forsteri. When spotting straggling pieces of pōhuehue (Muehlenbeckia australis) vine alongside, Chris mentioned how good this plant is as a habitat for butterflies and moths.
A sunny spot for lunch was easily found, as we pondered the existence of so many Darwin’s barberry / Berberis darwinii seedlings at this section of the track. A probable clue came from a kākā overhead and the call of a kākāriki. A quicker return was made to Karori Road and Park Cafe in the warm sun.
- Party members
- Michele Dickson (leader and scribe), with Julia Fraser, Chris Horne (co-leader), Peter Shanahan.