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Species fascinate visiting botanists

 

Botanists at work (1)(copy)The property of John and Gale Matheson in Lawrence Road, Mangawhai, was the setting for a recent Auckland Botanical Society (ABS) field trip.

Fifteen years ago the Matheson’s fenced the remnants of bush on their farm. With predator control, a rich and varied ground cover is now replacing the bare, eaten-out under storey of the bush, and fortunately there are no problem weeds present.

The botanical highlights of the day were two northern species that almost reach the southern limit of their distribution in the Mangawhai-Tomarata area.

Monoao is a conifer that has juvenile foliage with leaves like large, soft totara leaves, and the adult foliage is reminiscent of pieces of green string. The botanists were fascinated to see mature trees with a mosaic of both kinds of leaves.

Alseuosmia banksii, the second highlight, is a small shrub without a common name. It has perfumed flowers in season, and on the day plants were seen with bright red fruit.

October is a good time of the year to see our tiny native orchids, and thirteen different species were found. Several of them were in flower, including the spring orchid perched on nikau trunks, and little greenhoods and spider orchids on the ground.

The members of ABS encourage farmers who undertake such work. These small areas of bush are important in giving an idea of what grew in an area before the land was cleared, and in preserving these plants. They also provide stepping stones for birds to move to and from food sources.

By Maureen Young
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