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New Zealand - Christchurch revisited

gardens and museum

Thursday 11th February 2016 Christchurch Revisited

This was to be our last day in New Zealand. We had most of the day, so we walked across Hagley Park to the Botanic Gardens, as we had not been able to look at the Glasshouses last time. This time they were open, so we had an interesting visit inside. The first house was filled with colourful flowers, which led to the huge tropical house. Then we headed to the cacti house and finally the Alpines. A friendly gardener pointed out the NZ garden (which we’d breezed through before and wanted a better look at) and the Rock Garden; both very interesting. Then it was back towards the museum (and a visit to the Street Recreation to go on the penny farthing), the Antarctic display and into the centre. We had a stroll through the Re:Start Mall, into the department store Ballantynes and then decided to try Quake City. The exhibition was OK, but not really worth the money. There were some interesting bits, but I suspect it would have been of considerably more interest to locals. By this time we thought we’d try to find a lunch, knowing that we’d have a long time before any dinner. The museum had an excellent cafe, so we went back there (and had the benefit of a great view) for a bite, then sat and fed the birds with what was left of our nuts.
Gilpin glasshouse, New Zealand Trees, Garrick glasshouse, Fern glasshouse

Cabbage tree/tī kōuka The cabbage tree is one of the most distinctive trees in the New Zealand landscape, especially on farms. They grow all over the country, but prefer wet, open areas like swamps. Growing 12-20 metres, cabbage trees (Cordyline australis) have long narrow leaves up to 1m long. It has scented flowers in early summer, which turn into bluish-white berries that birds love to eat. As the plant gets old, the stems die but new shoots grow from any part of the trunk. The bark is thick and tough like cork, and a huge fleshy taproot anchors the tree firmly into the ground. The trunk is so fire-resistant that early European settlers used it to make chimneys for their huts. They also brewed beer from the root. Cabbage trees strong root system helps stop soil erosion on steep slopes and because they tolerate wet soil, they are useful for planting along stream banks. Māori used cabbage trees as a food, fibre and medicine. The root, stem and top are all edible, a good source of starch and sugar. The fibre is separated by long cooking or breaking up. The leaves were woven into baskets, sandals, rope, rain capes and other items and also made into tea to cure diarrhoea and dysentery.
Cabbage trees were planted to mark trails, boundaries, urupā (cemeteries) and births, as they are generally long-lived. Aside from tī kōuka, there are four other species in New Zealand:
● Cordyline obtecta –Three Kings, Murimotu, Poor Knights Island
● C. indivisa – mountain cabbage tree or tōi, a spectacular forest to high montane dwelling species with rather broad, blue-grey leaves.
● C. banksii – forest cabbage tree or tī ngahere. Coastal to lowland forest
● C. pumilio – stemless cabbage tree/tī rauriki, lacks a trunk, often with kauri
In 1987, a mysterious disease started to kill cabbage trees in North Island. The disease, ‘sudden decline’ was caused by a parasitic organism (phytoplasma), spread by a tiny sap-sucking insect, the introduced passion vine hopper. The phytoplasma is native to New Zealand flax, and last century caused massive epidemics of yellow leaf disease in flax, destroying the once extensive flax swamps of Manawatu and ending the flourishing flax fibre industry. Plants suddenly wilt, with leaves falling off. Infected trees die within months. The good news is that although sudden decline affects cabbage trees in farmland, trees in natural forest patches do well.

Dactylanthus is an unusual plant, and holds a special place in New Zealand's indigenous flora as the only fully parasitic flowering plant. This fascinating plant grows as a root-like stem attached to the root of a host tree. In response, the host root moulds into the shape of a fluted wooden rose, which gives the plant its other name, wood rose. It is through this attachment that dactylanthus draws its nutrients. Its Maori name is pua o te reinga (flower of the underworld), because it emerges from below ground. Since dactylanthus grows underground it is impossible to know the number of plants that exist, but there are likely to be only a few thousand left. It is pollinated by the short-tailed bat and has a strong scent to attract it. The species has separate male and female plants. Male Dactylanthus taylori

Kakabeak/ kowhai ngutukaka is named for its beautiful red flowers in clusters of 15-20 blooms and shaped liked kaka's beak. The kakabeak is found only in New Zealand. There are two species, both threatened. The beautiful flowers and edible seedpods make it attractive to gardeners and were used by Māori for gifts and trading. The bright green seedpods turn brown and split open when dry. The pods contain large numbers of tightly packed small black seeds that remains viable for up to 30 years and can be stored and transported easily. Plants grow up to 2-3m tall, producing long, trailing stems that form new plants when they come into contact with soil. We don’t know what the pre-human distribution of kakabeak was as Maori transported it around the country, but it once grew throughout North Island. Today kakabeak grows on Moturemu Island, East Cape, Te Urewera, Wairoa, and Hawke's Bay on open, sunny, steep rocky outcrops, slips, cliff bases or edges of lakes and streams. It is relatively short-lived, lasting 15-20 years. Kakabeak seed is viable long after being produced, creating a ‘seed bank’ ready to germinate when conditions suit. The seeds wait for sun gaps to appear, following a treefall, and then germinate in response. Being a member of the pea family kakabeak can fix nitrogen, enabling it to grow in infertile sites. It is a nutritious plant with no defences against browsing by deer, goats, pigs, hares, or snails.

Kowhai is New Zealand’s unofficial national flower, best known for its brilliant yellow flowers. Kōwhai trees have small leaflets and juvenile branches that are twisted and tangled. They grow to become trees up to 25 m high. Native birds such as the tui, bellbird, kākā and New Zealand pigeon (kererū/ kūkū/ kūkupa) all benefit from kōwhai trees. They feast on leaves and flowers (nectar). Māori hold it in high esteem, for its hard wood and its many medicinal properties. Eight kōwhai species are recognised, all endemic to New Zealand. Most kōwhai are trees but two species are bushy. All kōwhai produce pods with abundant hard-coated yellow to yellow-brown seeds. Abrasion of this hard seed coat is needed before germination can happen. Kōwhai occupy a wide range of habitats including river terraces, dunes, flood plains, lake margins, hill slopes and rocky ground. In parts of their range, kōwhai are scarce and those that remain are lone trees or small groves growing in isolation. Such trees are vulnerable to further loss through lack of regeneration opportunities.

Leonohebe cupressoides (formally Hebe cupressoides) is rare and hard to find. It is easily distinguishable with its fragrant scent, greyish-green colour and softly rounded canopy shape. Leonohebe has declined to such an extent that only 4 of its 19 populations comprise more than 100 mature plants. Leonohebe is a grey- green shrub forming a symmetrical rounded bush 1- 2 m tall, with small, scale-like leaves. Flowers vary in colour from white to a pale bluish-purple. Leonohebe is found from Marlborough to Otago (mainly Mackenzie Basin and Shotover River Valley). In the past it probably had a widespread, but patchy distribution. It can be found on areas that have been recently disturbed by flooding and slips and more stable sites such as rock outcrops and moraine.

Lancewood/ horoeka is a unique, small tree with lance-like foliage that changes dramatically as the tree matures. In fact, young trees are so different from adults that early botanists thought they were different species. Juveniles have very straight and thin trunks without branches and a cluster of long, narrow, deflexed leaves at the top.
Adult leaves are less than half the length of the juvenile’s and twice the width, forming a rounded crown at the top of the tree.
Fierce lancewood with juvenile leaves (left) Adult lancewood with some remaining juvenile leaves (right)
Lancewood is a common plant found throughout lowland/ montane forests and shrublands. The juvenile form is abundant in regenerating bush
and beech forest edges. There are three species of lancewood, all called horoeka by Māori. The most rare is fierce lancewood, named for shark-
tooth projections along the leaf margins. Plants are either male or female. The small, green-yellow flowers are pollinated by insects. The purple-black fruits are an important food for whitehead, tūī and wood pigeon/ kererū. For the Māori, the flowering of lancewood was an indication that birds would be plentiful the following year. The name lancewood derives either from the small lances evident in the wood when it is split, or from early Māori use of juvenile tree stems to spear wood pigeons. The strong, supple midribs of young leaves were used by Europeans as bootlaces and for mending bridles and harnesses. South Island Māori pounded lancewood leaves and extracted its long ‘hairs’ to make paintbrushs for rock paintings. Scientists call the condition of very distinct juvenile and adult forms ‘heteroblasty’. There are competing theories about why certain plant species do this;
1. it evolved as a response to moa browsing, as once above moa height, they no longer needed the special defences of their juvenile leaves.
2. as a response to the climatic changes undergone moving from the understory to the sub-canopy.
3. because of a reallocation of resources. Young plants allocate more resources to gaining height to prevent being shaded, while adults devote energy to making leaves and branches.

Podocarp (Dacrycarpus) Trees. This is a group of conifers from Gondwana that comprise most of the evergreen trees in New Zealand. They include Kahikatea (White Pine), Rime (Red Pine) and Totara among others.

Kahikatea (Podocarpus Dacrycarpus dacrydioides) or White Pine is a coniferous tree endemic to New Zealand. The tree grows to a height of 55 metres (180 ft) and is the tallest of New Zealand’s trees; we spotted many from the train ride.
They have surprisingly slender trunks, some 3-4ft diameter, considering the height of the tree. The draining of swampland has caused the forests of
kahikatea to mostly disappear from NZ, except for the pristine forests of the West Coast. It loves peaty, swampy, waterlogged areas and hundreds of mature trees are doing well in these forests, as we saw on our train journey. The tops of these trees have small, ragged looking crowns with small leaves. Like lancewood (although less obvious) the juvenile trees look rather different with longer branches and leaves. The profuse seeds are small and round. As a non- smelling wood it is in demand for butter boxes and cheese crates, where a smell would intrude. It is still very much prized for top quality casks.

Rimu (Podocarpus Dacrydium cupressinum) or Red Pine is a large evergreen conifer endemic to New Zealand, both in North and South Island, although the largest concentration is now on South Island’s West Coast. Oddly the largest trees are found in a mixed podocarp forest close to Lake Taupo. Rimu grows very slow and can reach up to 50m, although 35m is more common, with a trunk around 1.5m diameter. It generally prefers mixed forest, but there are some pure Rimu stands in the West coast rainforest. It lives 800-900 years. The leaves, about 2-3mm long, are awl-shaped and arranged in a spiral shape. As with most conifers it is dioecious (the male and female cones on separate trees). It uses birds to disperse the seeds (one red 10mm seed in each cone), passing through their gut unharmed. The kakapo is one of its favoured birds, and the kakapo’s breeding cycle seems to be linked to the cone production cycle of the tree. Rimu, along with kauri, matai and totara, were the principal wood source for the Maori in house and furniture production.
However, as numbers have plummeted it is now forbidden to fell any rimu. Stumps can be made into bowls and similar objects, but are naturally quite expensive. The Maori also used the inner bark as a natural antiseptic to treat burns and cuts.

Totara (Podocarpus totara) is another podocarp endemic to New Zealand. It grows throughout North Island and the northern part of South Island in sub-alpine forests (up to 600m above sea level). The tōtara is a medium to large tree that grows slowly to around 20 to 25 m, exceptionally to 35 m; it is noted for its longevity and the great girth of its trunk. The bark peels off in papery flakes, with a purple golden brown hue. The sharp, dull green needle-like leaves are stiff and leathery, 2 cm long. The tree produces highly modified cones with 2-4 fused, fleshy berry-like juicy scales, bright red when mature with 1-2 round seeds at the apex of the scales. The largest known living tōtara, Pouakani Tree, in central North Island is over 35 m tall, with a trunk nearly 4 m in diameter. On recent volcanic soils there are groves of very tall tōtara (over 40m in height). In a classic example of Antarctic flora species-pairing the tōtara is very closely related to the South American Podocarpus nubigenus (in fact non-biologists cannot tell them apart). The wood is hard, straight-grained and very resistant to rot, especially the heartwood, which meant tōtara wood was often used for fence posts, floor pilings and railway sleepers. It is also prized for its carving properties, and was the primary wood used in Māori carving. It was the primary wood used to make waka in traditional Maori boat building due to its relatively light weight (about 25% lighter than kauri), long straight lengths and natural oils in the wood which help prevent rotting. Tōtara could be drilled with chert points to make holes near the edges of the timber without splitting. In larger tōtara waka, three or more sections were laced together with flax rope. A tōtara waka took at least a year to make using stone adzes.

Miro (Prumnopitys ferruginea) is a conifer closely related to the Podocarp family. It grows to 25 m tall and its trunk to 1 m diameter, forming a round- headed tree. It is widely distributed in lowland and high-altitude forests from Auckland to Stewart Island. It prefers moist, well-drained soils, and fine specimens grow on the deep pumice soils of central North Island. Young plants look like miniature versions of adults. They have dark green, feathery, needle-like leaves flattened into two rows. Small mataī and miro trees look similar, but can be distinguished because miro oozes resin from its bark when it receives an injury. Each year miro produces a regular crop of fleshy, bright red seeds, which smell strongly of turpentine. The seeds are an important food for forest birds in winter. Māori hunted kererū (New Zealand pigeons) at this time, as the birds often gorged themselves on so many seeds that they could barely fly. In the past, miro was used mainly for building houses. The timber looks like rimu and has similar properties.270_christchurch-botanical-gardens_49920876792_o.jpg

Matai (Prumnopitys taxifolia) is related to the Miro. It grows to 30 m tall and the trunk to 2 m diameter. It is found throughout lowland forests of the North and South islands.
It favours fertile, well-drained soils, and like tōtara can grow where there is low rainfall. It has been adversely affected by the conversion of
lowland forest to farmland. Mataī live for about 1,000 years. Young mataī (below) look so different from the mature trees (left) that early botanists failed to recognise they were the same species. Mataī begins life as a divaricating shrub – a tangle of interlaced branches with tiny brown leaves. Growing slowly in shaded forest, it may take 50 years to reach 2 m. When it reaches around 5 m in height, it develops a cylindrical trunk and rounded crown. Adult leaves are about 1 cm long and 4 mm wide, in two irregular rows about the stem. They are dark green with a bluish-white underside. Mature trunks have a hammer-marked appearance, caused by circular pieces of bark flaking off. Male and female cones are borne on separate trees. Heavy seeding years occur infrequently.
Mataī produces hard-coated seeds, each enclosed in a fleshy purple cover. They are dispersed by forest birds, especially the kererū (wood pigeons), kākā (brown parrots) and kōkako (wattlebirds), which digest the plum-like outer covering and excrete the seeds. Unfortunately mammals such as rats, pigs and possums destroy mataī and other podocarp seeds as they feed. The hard, reddish-brown wood made excellent flooring timber and window sills, but it is now protected. The timber was also popular with Whanganui Māori for carving. A Maori legend goes: early in the 1600s, a baby named Hinehopu was hidden under a large mataī tree by her mother. Later Hinehopu met her future husband Pikiao beside the tree and the two became the founding ancestors of the Ngāti Pikiao tribe, in the Rotorua area. The tree still stands alongside Hinehopu’s track (now State Highway 30), which links
Lake Rotoiti to Lake Rotoehu. It is known as the wishing tree or Hinehopu’s tree.

Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium), or manuka myrtle, New Zealand teatree, broom tea-tree is a flowering plant of the myrtle family. It is native to New Zealand and southeast Australia. It is a prolific scrub-type tree and often one of the first species to regenerate on cleared land. It is typically a shrub growing to 2–5 m tall, but can grow into a moderately sized tree, up to 15 m in height. It is evergreen, with dense branching and small leaves 7–20 mm long and 2–6 mm broad, with a short spine tip.
The flowers are white, or occasionally pink, 8–15 mm (rarely up to 25 mm) in diameter, with five petals. This species is often confused with the closely related species kānuka. The easiest way to tell the difference is to feel their foliage; mānuka leaves are prickly, while kānuka leaves are soft. The wood is tough and hard. Evidence suggests that manuka originated in Australia before the Miocene aridity, and dispersed to New Zealand, becoming established in suitable areas until the arrival of the Maori, whose fire and forest-clearing brought about the low-nutrient-status soils for which it was well adapted in its homeland. It is found throughout New Zealand, but is particularly common on the drier east coasts. Kakariki parakeets use the leaves and bark of mānuka and kānuka to rid themselves of parasites. Apart from ingesting the material, they also chew it, mix it with preen gland oil and apply it to their feathers.

Tree Ferns are particularly well represented in New Zealand’s forests, possibly due to the lack of mammals.
There are two main groups of tree ferns in New Zealand: Cyathea and Dicksonia. They are easily distinguished since Cyathea is scaly and Dicksonia is hairy. There are seven Cyathea species native to New Zealand. Five are endemic to New Zealand, with Cyathea cunninghamii also occurring in Australia and C. medullaris in several Pacific Islands. Two of the New Zealand species are confined to the subtropical Kermadec Island. An Australian species, C. cooperi, has been recorded as a weed in New Zealand. Sometimes several genera of scaly tree ferns are recognised alongside a more narrowly-circumscribed Cyathea, in which case the New Zealand species are placed in Alsophila except for C.medullaris which is placed in Sphaeropteris. There are three Dicksonia species native to New Zealand. Additionally, New Zealand is the only home of Loxsoma, which is related to tree ferns but does not form a trunk. Tree ferns are colloquially known in New Zealand as “pungas”. This appears to be an English corruption of “ponga”, a name specific to Cyathea dealbata (silver fern). Most punga trunks for sale are not actually ponga but wheki (Dicksonia squarrosa).

We then decided we had time to go back into the excellent Canterbury Museum. They had a whole Victorian Christchurch street recreation including a variety of shops (which we could go into). One was even Fisher’s Shop. The penny farthing was a great draw as you are allowed to get on and take a picture. As we had time we headed upstairs to the Antarctic exhibition- fascinating. They had quite a few pieces there relating to Amundsen and Scott as well as most of Shackleton’s artefacts (he had used Christchurch as a base). The centre stage was Able, the Tucker Sno-cat used by Vivian Fuchs who led the 1955-58 Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic expedition. The expedition aimed to make the first overland crossing of the Antarctic Continent. This was to be done with two parties: the Crossing Party and the Ross Sea Party. Vivian Fuchs led the Crossing Party, which would cross the continent from the Weddell Sea to McMurdo Sound via the South Pole. Edmund Hillary led the Ross Sea Party, which supported the Crossing Party by building a support base in McMurdo Sound, laying supply depots and establishing a vehicle route from the Polar Plateau through the Western Mountains back to Ross Island. I thought the account of the sub-Antarctic Disappointment Island was particularly sad. On 14 May 1866, the General Grant, a full-rigged ship of 1,103 tons, crashed into the towering cliffs on the west coast of nearby Auckland Island. Sixty-eight passengers died and fifteen survivors made their way to Disappoinment island, where they waited eighteen months for rescue. Soon after a castaway depot was established at Auckland Island for these sort of emergencies. On 7 March 1907, the Dundonald, a steel, four-masted barque, sank after running ashore on the west side of Disappointment Island. Twelve men drowned and sixteen survivors waited seven months for rescue, surviving on supplies from the depot on Auckland
At 3 we went back to the hotel and our driver took us, as promised, to the factory store and we each bought a jumper at a much better price. Then we drove to the airport. After a bit of a fuss about our ticket type (they thought we were economy and tried to limit our luggage and got a bit arsey), they realised we were Premium and suddenly changed their tune, we could go through. We didn’t have long to wait before our flight to Auckland (a pretty flight over South & North Island- surprisingly City Maps works in flight), but had longer at Auckland, (after an odd walk overland between terminals), so we eat a pizza and shopped to pass the time. Finally we were on the flight to Hong Kong, saying goodbye to NZ.

Posted by PetersF 21:22 Archived in New Zealand Tagged gardens new museum island south zealand botanical canterbury hagley

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