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The following news snippets were also published in the Wellington Botanical Society Newsletter

December 2017 News

From the President

The October WBS meeting gave me much hope for the future of botanical research in New Zealand.   We were lucky to hear talks from two of our 2016 WBS prizewinners.   Jubilee Award winner, Stacey Bryan, on behalf of Hannah Buckley, gave a fascinating talk on pingao, which wove in aspects of genetics, culture, conservation and ecology.   Grants to Graduate Students prizewinner, Nathaniel Walker-Hale, gave a very polished presentation on the evolution of salt tolerance and betalain pigments.   Nathaniel was recently awarded a Woolf Fisher Scholarship to continue his studies with a PhD at the University of Cambridge in the UK.   Lastly, Jane Humble gave an insightful talk into botanical art and brought along some of her own artworks for us to admire.   The talks stimulated much discussion.   I had several members tell me how much they enjoyed the evening in the days afterwards.   Thanks to all our speakers, and to Sunita Singh for organising our meeting programme.

Lara Shepherd, President



Draft Upper Hutt Open Space Strategy 2017

Upper Hutt City Council (UHCC) adopted the following definition of ‘open space’ for its Draft Open Space Strategy; open space is land that is, or should be, set aside for public recreation that the community has a relatively free right of access to.   ‘Open space’ includes parks, nature reserves, sports-fields, road reserves, pathways, public gardens, streams and civic spaces.   Upper Hutt City manages 421ha of open space.   GWRC and DOC manage a further 34,600 ha near the city.

Upper Hutt faces numerous challenges.   Planning challenges for recreation include the small number of places where cyclists and pedestrians can cross SH2, the Hutt River, and the railway line.   Guidelines proposed to ban dense plantings and open up more open spaces to passive surveillance hint at concerns about anti-social behaviour and risks to personal safety in some open spaces.   In addition, its population is growing (currently 42,000); large subdivisions are already underway; and its population is aging.   The number of people over 65 is projected to rise from 5,963 in 2013 to 8,513 in 2028, an increase of 2,550 (42%) over 15 years.

A key theme in the draft strategy is to improve access to, and connectivity between, the city’s open spaces.   Analyses and maps in the draft show the parks and walking / cycling tracks currently available in neighbourhoods.   Some of the analyses also identified opportunities for enhancing biodiversity.

We expressed concern about the limited focus on strategies for protecting and enhancing the place of indigenous biodiversity, and on strategies for strengthening opportunities for contact between people and “nature”.   We appended the Executive Summary from Wellington City Council’s Open Space Strategy 2015 to show the emphasis WCC places on encouraging and supporting residents to care for open spaces.   Some of the retirees who may shift into townhouses or retirement villages from family homes with gardens may welcome opportunities to exercise their green thumbs in restoration projects, community orchards, and sustainable education projects.

The draft Strategy does not address open space maintenance or operations, but some of the draft performance measures are encouraging.   Council intends, for example, to “monitor to ensure pest plants and animals are absent in open spaces.”   Upper Hutt City could face high pest management costs given the potential for invasions of environmental weeds and animal pests from adjacent DOC and GW land, as well as private property.

Despite the emphasis on recreation, the draft signals that the Council wants to make sure there is appropriate protection for the qualities of the environment that contribute to biodiversity, the recreational experience and sense of place.

Bev Abbott, Submissions Coordinator


What next with DOC’s Threatened Species Strategy?

The new Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage, is backed by a confidence and supply agreement which commits to a “significant boost to Department of Conservation funding”, and “reducing the extinction risk for 3,000 threatened plant and wildlife species, significantly increasing predator control and protecting their habitats”.   This commitment provides scope for responding positively to many of the submissions on the Draft Threatened Species Strategy prepared by DOC for the previous Minister.   There’s a report on Wellington Botanical Society’s submission on the DTSS in the September newsletter.

Copies of all the submissions on the DTSS, about 800 pages, can be accessed on   Each submission is numbered (top right corner of the 1st page).   There is no index but the PDF can be searched to find words and names.   Personal details are blacked out.   Our submission is #93.

The 11-page Summary of Analysis on the same web site shows the diversity of submitters.


The table illustrates the diversity of groups which said they wanted more done to protect New Zealand’s indigenous biodiversity.   It’s necessary, however, to read actual submissions to understand the scale of the challenges ahead.   The high quality information in many of the submissions will provide a useful starting point for developing specific plans to protect different categories of threatened species in different places.

The multi-faceted challenge ahead

The following bullet points illustrate some of the diversity of aspirations in the submissions.
•   Several submitters, including Forest & Bird, promoted a whole-of-government approach.   Others preferred a whole-of-nation approach, saying iwi, councils, businesses, farmers, and communities need to be involved, not just DOC and Government.
•   Environment Canterbury called for greater involvement of regional councils in strategic decision-making and policy-making about threatened species and habitats, particularly where issues impact on the regional sector.   They argued for more consistent, systematic and universally applied approaches to identifying, prioritising and delivering biodiversity projects across land tenures and regions.
•   Submitter #50 called for a fully-featured and publicly accessible database for the storage, retrieval, and display of distribution data for NZ’s threatened and other species, to allow more robust, evidence-based assessments of their distribution and status.
•   NZ Freshwater Science Society (# 118) called for “a strong, well-funded flagship freshwater programme (e.g., ‘Fight for our Fish’)”.   They want recognition and action to address the impact of salmonids on threatened native species, such as galaxiids and invertebrates.
•   A surprising number of submitters noticed that the fungi kingdom had been left out.   The Fungal Network of NZ Inc offered a list of 1,480 NZ endemic fungal species - about 20% of the 8,000 recorded species in NZ.
•   Iwi reminded Government that rights granted under Treaty Settlements will need to be recognised and incorporated.
•   Federated Farmers (# 166) suggested DOC take advantage of well-established relationships between landowners and regional councils because farmers often prefer to engage on biodiversity with one rather than multiple agencies.   They also recommended DOC use GIS technology to map the locations of the priority ecosystems and / or threatened species to help communicate where work should be targeted.
•   Forest & Bird (# 163) raised the importance of DOC’s statutory advocacy role in seeking to protect and restore threatened species and their habitats on private land.
•   Predator-Free New Zealand Ltd (#117) asked for clear national policy on translocation, more funding and technical support for community conservation groups and regulations enabling the control of un-owned cats in ecologically sensitive sites.   They also highlighted a need for better predator-control tools for non-expert users, and for sites where predator densities are low.
•   BGANZ, the Botanic Gardens Australia and New Zealand, described work underway with DOC on an exsitu strategy to show how the botanical community can contribute to the recovery of NZ’s threatened plants.
•   NIWA (# 140) reported that the 80 taxa of freshwaterdependant plants comprise about 30% of nationally threatened vascular plant taxa, and an additional 26 taxa are at-risk / declining.
•   Forest and Bird (#163) identified dry-land and limestone plants as gaps in the lists of priority plant species for protection.   They also proposed adding lupin, broom, poplar and gorse to the (previous) Minister’s Dirty Dozen weeds campaign given the urgent need to control these in braided river beds and lowland dry-land sites.
•   Submission #166 used references and quotes to document concerns about the lack of science in NZ conservation.   S/he also queried the lack of any discussion of the ecological implications of the PFNZ 50 proposal to seek a scientific breakthrough that would enable the eradication at least one small mammal predator from the NZ mainland.
•   The Pew Charitable Trust and WWF-NZ (# 149) called for an effective by-catch policy framework because bycatch was contributing to the continuing decline of NZ’s protected marine species.
•   The Entomological Society of NZ (#146) presented a case for facilities for rearing threatened insects which would enable collaboration with researchers, and be enjoyed by educational and tourist audiences.   The required expertise is apparently available because billions of insects are reared globally for exhibits, biological control and pet food.   Translocations of insects and spiders also have more potential in conservation than is often realised.
•   Many submitters supported adopting the vision from the PCE’s recent report on birds, i.e., The restoration of abundant, resilient and diverse species and habitats across their natural range.   (Nobody pointed out the challenge of identifying the ‘natural range’ of a species when information about distributions is often very limited.)
•   The need for more investment in Data Deficient (DD) species, and / or data poor (DP) species was a frequent theme.   (DD is a formal classification of conservation status; ‘dd’ means we don’t know enough to start protecting them.)
•   Submitter #120 asked DOC to declare that it sees itself, not just as a broker of partnerships and teams, but as a provider of nationally coordinated leadership in conservation science and management.

Bev Abbott, Submissions Coordinator


The latest on Myrtle Rust

Karin van der Walt, Conservation & Science Adviser, Wellington Gardens (Karin.VanderWalt (at)

Myrtle Rust (Austropuccinia psidii), also known as Guava / Eucalyptus Rust, is a fungal pathogen native to South America.   The rust has been spreading globally since 1900 and now consists of several “strains” or “biotypes”, and although these strains vary in host preference and severity, it is found only on Myrtaceae species.   Globally, some highly susceptible species include Agonis flexuosa (peppermint tree), Syzygium smithii (common lily pilly; monkey apple), Rhodamnia rubescens (scrub turpentine) and Lophomyrtus species and cultivars.

Infected Metrosideros kermadecensis.   Photo: Peter Wilson.

Myrtle Rust spreads rapidly through highly mobile spores which can be dispersed by wind, animals (including insects), humans (on clothing or equipment) and movement of infected plants.   Spores can remain viable for up to 90 days at 15°C and 35-55% Relative Humidity, with shorter lifespans expected at higher temperatures.   The spores can also survive cold storage conditions, with viability still present after 150 days at up to -190°C (Salustiano et al., 2008).   It is suspected that the arrival of Myrtle Rust in New Zealand (Raoul Island and North Island) happened during a major wind event (NIWA, 2017).

Myrtle Rust was confirmed on Raoul Island, 1000 km north of NZ’s North Island in early April 2017.   At the time of the detection, more than 1000 ha of Metrosideros kermadecensis forests were already heavily infected.   With less than 2% of the Island surveyed, infestations are likely to be more extensive.   By September 2017, Myrtle Rust was confirmed in 116 sites in the North Island.   Until December 2017, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) was hoping that infections could be confined or perhaps even eradicated.   Unfortunately a positive find in Naenae, Lower Hutt on 1 December 2017 made confinement or eradication of Myrtle Rust from NZ highly unlikely.

The latest information (7 December 2017) reveals that myrtle rust is now present in 172 sites, with 11 new sites confirmed between 1 and 11 December 2017.   Infected regions include Northland (4), Taranaki (91), Waikato (19), Bay of Plenty (40), Auckland (16) and Wellington (2).   Property types include nurseries, private property, public land and schools.

Plant species on which myrtle rust has been detected, and prevalence of the disease, include (MPI, 2017):
•   Ramarama: Lophomyrtus bullata (4.31%)
•   Bottle brush: Callistemon (0.10%)
•   Eucalyptus (0.03%)
•   Monkey apple: Syzygium smithii (0.12%)
•   Manuka: Leptospermum scoparium (0.011%)
•   Pohutukawa, Northern rata, Southern rata: Metrosideros excelsa and species (0.63%)
•   Willow myrtle: Agonis flexuosa (0.35%)

Prevalence is based on the percentage of total trees of that species surveyed which were positive for myrtle rust.

December was also the first time Myrtle Rust was detected on Acca sellowiana, more commonly known as feijoa.   Although this raises cause for concern, the infected feijoa was located underneath an exotic Syzygium species which was covered with Myrtle Rust.

MPI is compiling a long-term plan for Myrtle Rust and will in coming weeks hold workshops in affected areas.   MPI, with support from other local and central government agencies, industry and tangata whenua, is still the lead agency for the Myrtle Rust response.

If you think you have seen Myrtle Rust call MPI on 0800 80 99 66, do not touch the plant, but take a photo if you can.   Please check any plants that you have in your garden, or any that you may have planted in your local reserve as a part of our Two Million trees programme.

There is a smartphone app to help people report Myrtle Rust on plants in the myrtle family, so we know where these are located.   Search Myrtle Rust Reporter in Google Play, or the app store, and give it a go.   The app is bilingual and contributes information to a public database of nature observations.



Otari-Wilton’s Bush news

Kia ora koutou,

Thank you to Wellington BotSoc for their support of the NZ Plant Conservation Network conference, particularly for nominating and supporting Otari staff member Eleanor Burton.   The conference was held 16-20 November in Hokitika, where nearly 100 Network members gathered to enjoy a host of informative speakers, several well-run workshops, interesting field trips, and a combined exhibition dedicated to botanical artwork.   At the conference dinner, one of the annual NZPCN awards was awarded to Eleanor for her talent and dedication to botanical illustration.

We have just started some exciting new work at Otari, in partnership with Te Papa, on rata moehau (Metrosideros bartlettii).   Some of you will be aware that these trees are one of our rarest - apparently down to only 13 in the wild, spread across three disjunct populations in the Far North.   Over the last two weeks we have been cross-pollinating rata moehau by hand from two different populations after being sent flowers from a tree in Auckland University (from Radar Bush) that is from a different population than ours (from Kohuranaki).   Karin van der Walt, our Science and Conservation Advisor, is leading the work for us, which involves both assessing the viability in long-term storage of M. bartlettii pollen, and hand-pollinating M. bartlettii at Otari, with pollen from another tree from a different population.

To assist with this conservation work, we are considering the state of the Otari plant nursery.   To support and increase our contribution to research and conservation of NZ’s threatened flora, we would like to upgrade to the nursery’s infrastructure and equipment, rearrange the layout to increase work efficiencies and safety, and we would like to integrate the nursery into our visitor experience.   To start this, we are exploring a partnership with landscape-architecture staff at Victoria University to consider how we might rearrange the nursery to achieve the above objectives.

Anneke Mace, our Educator on staff, has recently succeeded with a funding bid to the Ministry of Education.   The funding runs over a three-year period, and includes capacity to support the revival of the Bush Guides programme at Otari School.   The Bush Guides are a small bunch of environmentally-minded enthusiastic students who took time from their school week to learn more about NZ’s natural environment, a lot of which was undertaken in the gardens or forest at Otari.   With the knowledge they gained, the students were then equipped to design guided tours for their peers and other visiting schools to Otari.   Due to budget pressures the funding for the Bush Guides was cut last year, however last week we were pleased to have our first discussions with the school about its revival.

In the gardens and forest we are getting drier and drier.   Fingers crossed we get a little rain to ease the stress.

I hope you all have a merry time over Christmas and the New Year.

Rewi Elliot, Team Manager, Otari-Wilton’s Bush.   Email rewi.elliot (at)


Jubilee Award 2018 - Applications sought

The Wellington Botanical Society invites applications for an Award of up to $2,600 to encourage and assist applicants to increase knowledge of New Zealand’s indigenous flora, and to commemorate the Society’s Jubilee in 1989.

Purpose of the award

The Award is open to anyone working in New Zealand.   It will be granted for: fieldwork; artistic endeavour; publication; research; propagation or cultivation of NZ native plants for educational purposes and / or other studies which promote the better understanding of NZ’s indigenous flora and vegetation.   The interpretation of these conditions will be flexible, except that the main criterion will be the furtherance of knowledge or promotion of the intrinsic value of NZ’s indigenous flora and vegetation.   The Award may be used to defray costs such as travel, accommodation, materials or publication.

Applications for the Award

Applications should be made in typescript to: Secretary, Wellington Botanical Society, PO Box 10 412, Wellington 6143, or by e-mail to bj_clark (at), by 6 SEPTEMBER 2018.

There is no prescribed application form, but the following must be provided:
1.   the applicant’s name;
2.   postal address, telephone number and e-mail address;
3.   any relevant position held; 10
4.   a summary statement of the applicant’s accomplishments in the field of botany - no more than one page;
5.   an outline and timetable for the proposed project for which the Award is sought;
6.   a proposed budget for the project.


The Award will be made to one or more applicants selected by a subcommittee nominated by the general committee of Wellington Botanical Society.   Award(s) will be made and applicants informed of the results in writing, by 6 October 2018.

Successful applicants will be required to provide, at an agreed time, a short report on what they have achieved, and an account of their expenditure of Award funds.   The names of the Award recipients, the value of the Award(s), and a synopsis of the project(s) will be published in the Annual Report of Wellington Botanical Society.


Wellington Botanical Society - grant to graduate students

Each year the Wellington Botanical Society provides small grants to assist post-graduate student in the VUW School of Biological Sciences.

These grants can be used for travel, materials and other costs related to research projects undertaken as part of the course of study.   Grants to any one student will normally be not more than $600.

Application should be made initially through your supervisor to Prof. Kevin Gould by 6 SEPTEMBER 2018.

Applications should be brief and to the point.   (Say two A4 pages).

They should state:
•   Your name and email address.
•   Your current education qualifications.
•   The course of study being undertaken.
•   The nature and aim of the research project.
•   The name of your supervisor for this project
•   The budget for this project.
•   The expenses that the grant is proposed to cover.

You will be advised of the results of your application by 6 October 2018.

Grants will be made through the Research Trust of Victoria University of Wellington.

Names of successful applicants will be published in the Society’s newsletter.

It is a condition of the grant that you make a short presentation to the Society on your project and / or provide a one-page summary on the nature and results from the project to be included in the Society’s newsletter or bulletin.

The small print
1.   Grants will normally be to post-graduate students.   Consideration may be given to applications by undergraduates where the supervisor considers that there is a special case to be made because the nature of the project is similar to that undertaken by graduate students.
2.   Priority will be given to projects involving native New Zealand vascular plants and cryptogams.   Consideration may be given to those projects involving other vegetation.   With the anticipated competition and limited funds, it is unlikely that applications for projects involving algae, fungi and coral would be successful.
3.   The primary purpose of the grant is to cover field expenses - transport and accommodation but not rations.   Financial assistance towards the cost of chemicals and chemical and DNA analysis will be entertained.   The Society is reluctant to fund capital items but will consider applications for these.
4.   Applications for grants made after the closing date may be entertained if the Society has not already allocated the funds available for the Student Grant.   Priority will be given to applications received before the close off date.
5.   The funds available are limited and priority will be given to those applications and those expenditures that agree with the main criteria set out above and are most in line with the aims of the Wellington Botanical Society.


Biosecurity’s new boat

GWRC’s Biosecurity field team have christened their new boat by using it to survey for Iris pseudacorus / yellow flag at Parangarahu Lakes Key Native Ecosystem (KNE) site.   Yellow flag is a pest plant that displaces native vegetation.

The boat is an invaluable addition to the team.   It will enable them to access and survey aquatic weeds such as yellow flag, purple loosestrife, Senegal tea, Manchurian wild rice and spartina.   All these aquatic weeds have previously been too difficult to reach in the region’s waterbodies.

Once the team accesses the weeds, they will record their location and kill them using various methods.   In the case of yellow flag, Biosecurity Officers pull out the plants and collect them in bags for disposal at the landfill.   Now is an ideal time because the plant is flowering and easy to spot.

It’s still early days so the team aren’t sure of all the sites that they will be able to use the boat across Greater Wellington.   However, it will most definitely be used at various times during the year to survey for, and control, aquatic pest plants at Wairarapa Moana and KNE sites such as Wainuiomata-Orongorongo, Te Harakeke and Te Hapua wetlands.   These sites have been scheduled as ‘Outstanding’ in the proposed Natural Resources Plan, so it’s important to control pest plants like yellow flag.   Check New boat on Instagram and Facebook?

For more information about how our Biosecurity team are helping fight pest plants across our region visit

Kieran McLean, GWRC


Queen Elizabeth Park - exciting news

An agreement has been signed between Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and the Maclean Trust for a restoration project to implement the Sustainable Land-Use Plan in the north-east corner of the park, over the next six years.   The area is next to SH1, and immediately south of Poplar Ave, Raumati South.   GWRC has worked closely with Chris and Sam Maclean over several weeks to develop this project that will have very beneficial results for the park.   The Maclean Trust will invest $300,000 in the park, along with investment and considerable staff time from GWRC.   The total area to be restored will be c. 25ha.   Most of this is now grazed and will be withdrawn from the farm licence, with a smaller area already retired just south of the Kapiti Expressway pond on Poplar Ave.

A walking / biking track will be constructed as part of the project, shown as the solid red line on the QEP Restoration Project Map.pdf on the GWRC web site.   The red shaded area will have some hydrology investigation work done to investigate whether the recently formed “lakes” are permanent features.   This work will help guide future management decisions in this area.   The two key areas of restoration works are shaded green and pink.

We have engaged Wildlands Consultants to prepare the restoration plan which will include Groundtruth doing the planting using techniques developed during recent trials.

From 10.11.2017 news release by Wayne Boness, Principal Ranger, Western Sector Parks, GWRC.


Percy Scenic Reserve news

We have had a lot of plants flowering well this spring, including one of our Metrosideros bartlettii, the rare white flowered rata moehau.   This specimen flowered well last year.   The Pomaderris kumeraho and Parsonsia heterophylla put on a good show early in spring.   Our Passiflora tetrandra and Metrosideros robusta are in full flower.

Our glasshouse alpine collection has been doing well throughout the spring - looking great with lots of fresh spring growth and flowers.   The Anaphalioides bellidioides has flowered for the first time in the three years I have worked here.   The Celmisia “Mangaweka”, C. gracilenta x Olearia arborescens, a natural hybrid, Veronica jovellanoides, Mazus impolitus f. hirtus and Leptinella filiformis have all done well.

We have been potting up our seed and cuttings from our 2016 trip to the Cobb Valley, and from our stored seed collection.   We have done well with our Australopyrum calcis subsp. calcis, Celmisia “Mangaweka”, C. incana, C. dahlii and Pimelea actea amongst others.   The benches are filling up with Myosotis laeta, M. pottsiana, M. lytteltonensis, Veronica hookeriana, etc.   as we continue to pot on plants into larger pots.   We have also been taking more cuttings for next year, including Coprosma ciliata, C. obconica, Brachyglottis hectori, B. huntii.

A lot more Veronica bishopiana have been planted around the reserve, and we are trial planting some Peperomia urvilleana, P. sp. ‘purple vein’, along with Myosotis explanata and M. spathulata in the hope they will survive outside.

Cliff Keilty, Percy Scenic Reserve


EDS report on Biobanking in NZ

The Environmental Defence Society has released a new research report aimed at exploring how habitat banking could contribute to the management of NZ’s biodiversity.   Banking on Biodiversity: the feasibility of Biobanking in NZ is available free on the EDS web site.

“We are aware that offsetting the harm to nature in development by providing biodiversity gains elsewhere has a chequered track record in this country,” said EDS CEO Gary Taylor.   “Biobanking, where a formal structure is set up akin to a trading platform for habitat, holds some promise as a policy instrument to improve such transactions which are now ad hoc and lack definition”.   But this report shows biobanking needs to be developed carefully so as not to do more harm than good.   Internationally the approach has a history of poor implementation, often because of bad design.

The report’s author, Dr Marie Brown, said that the way offsetting was done at present was often deeply flawed and led to net biodiversity loss.   “Key weaknesses include poor compliance, lack of expertise in implementing offset projects, and an inability to carry out offsets in advance of impacts.   Biobanking could help address some of these issues,” said Dr Brown.   “The mitigation hierarchy - avoid, remedy, mitigate - should be pursued vigilantly and offsetting brought in to play only where there are unavoidable, residual impacts on biodiversity.   But the weak policy framework for offsetting must be addressed first”.

“The report’s overall conclusion is that biobanking has a potentially useful role in formalising an offsetting regime, but there is more work to do before it could be credibly used in NZ, including strengthening the legal basis for offsetting,” said Marie Brown.   “EDS is keen to further explore the feasibility of biobanking, and will be doing so as part of our major review of the resource management system, now underway,” Mr Taylor concluded.

Dr Marie Brown 021 808 764, Gary Taylor (09) 810 9594


BotSoc award winners

Matt Biddick received a Graduate Student Grant.   He is studying morphological differences between offshore island plants and their mainland relatives.

Kat de Silva received the Jubilee Award.   She is studying factors that constrain or promote urban reforestation in revegetation projects, and how these change over time.

Eleanor Burton



We congratulate Glennis and Allan Sheppard who on 30 November received a Civic Award from Upper Hutt City Mayor Wayne Guppy for their decades of voluntary work in the city’s indigenous ecosystems by, controlling possums, planting and weeding.   Glennis has co-led, with Sue Millar, the combined BotSoc / Upper Hutt Forest & Bird biannual workbees in Te Marua Bush, since about 1991.   BotSoc supported the nomination prepared by Te Marua School.


New names for our Blechnum species

Recent genetic research has argued in favour of treating hard ferns (Melicytus) as a number of separate genera within the Blechnaceae.   The worldwide study of members of the Blechnaceae has placed the New Zealand species into seven different genera, none of which is Blechnum!   The research places species which are morphologically similar to each other, and which can hybridise among themselves, into respective genera.   These genera include Doodia and Lomaria, genera that have already been in use in NZ, and five new genera: Austroblechnum, Parablechnum, Diploblechnum, Cranfillia and Icharus.

The new names, alongside their old names, are provided in the concordance table below.

Shannel Courtney


New names in NZ’s hard ferns - Blechnaceae

Reference: A.L. de Gasper et al. 2016, A Classification for Blechnaceae.   Phytotaxa 275 (3): 191-227.

Source: Nelson Botanical Society October newsletter.


Melicytus obovatus complex revised

Three new species of Melicytus have been described and the circumscription of M. obovatus has been revised after research by Peter Heenan, Shannel Courtney, Peter de Lange and Brian Molloy.

Melicytus obovatus sens. str. is confined to calcareous substrates in northwest Nelson.   It is dioecious and the petals have a prominent purple margin.

Melicytus improcerus also occurs in northwest Nelson but has a much more restricted distribution on marble substrates in upper montane and subalpine areas.   It is also dioecious but the petals lack a purple margin.   Melicytus orarius petals do have a purple margin but this species is hermaphrodite.   It occurs in coastal habitats of the Cook Strait area, including the Wellington coast from Kapiti Island in the west to the south Wairarapa coast in the east, and throughout the Marlborough Sounds.

Melicytus venosus is known to have female flowers only and may be apomictic.   It is found in the western Marlborogh Sounds and on the western side of Kapiti Island.

Reference: Heenan PB, Courtney SP, de Lange PJ, Molloy BPJ. 2017.   Three new Melicytus species from central New Zealand and a revised circumscription of Melicytus obovatus (Violaceae).   New Zealand Journal of Botany 2017.

Jeremy Rolfe


Cardamine in New Zealand revised

Just as this newsletter was being prepared, Peter Heenan’s taxonomic revision of Cardamine was published.   Ten previously named taxa are accepted and 31 new species have been named and described.

Reference: Heenan PB. 2017.   A taxonomic revision of Cardamine L.   (Brassicaceae) in New Zealand.   Phytotaxa 330: 1-154.


Allan Mere Award 2017

We congratulate Paul Champion, Principal Scientist and Programme Leader (Aquatic Plants and Freshwater Biosecurity), NIWA who has won this year’s award.   He was nominated by Waikato Botanical Society with support from Wellington BotSoc and others.

Paul has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of plant ecology and has authored more than 200 significant publications during this time.   He has an extraordinary breadth of knowledge in biosecurity, plant ecology, and threatened plant conservation.

Source: NZ Botanical Society newsletter 129, 17/11


NIWA Science Fair 2017 winners

The following people shared the $150.00 Wellington Botanical Society prize:

Katie Harford, year 13, Queen Margaret College: “Native NZ Plants vs Bacteria.”   $75.

Lucy Hegan & Sarah Scott, Year 10, Wellington Girls’ College: “Does sea lettuce reduce nitrogen in polluted water?” $75.

Lea Robertson, Treasurer


Eleanor Burton’s artistic skills recognised


Nikau (Rhopalostylis sapida).   Illustration: Eleanor Burton.   Source: Trilepidea 168 November 2017

We congratulate BotSoc committee member, Eleanor Burton, who received the Special Award for Botanical Illustration at the recent NZ Plant Conservation Network conference in Hokitika.

Readers will be familiar with Eleanor’s pen-and-ink drawings of native plants which often accompany field trip reports in the BotSoc newsletter.   Since 2000, she has provided drawings for Otari-Wilton’s Bush Trust’s quarterly News and Views newsletter, and since 2016, for the cover of NZ Botanical Society’s newsletter.

Eleanor has produced drawings on commission from the French Government for John Dawson’s Flora of New Caledonia.   She has produced botanical illustrations for WCC’s interpretation boards, and for the Botanic Garden’s Discovery Gardens.   For the last ten years, Eleanor has been working on her project to illustrate the NZ Celmisia genus.   In 2012, twenty-five of her colour-pencil illustrations were exhibited in the foyer of DOC’s Conservation House.

Eleanor, who is editor of Wellington BotSoc’s bulletin, and leader of field trips, has worked part-time at Otari-Wilton’s Bush for nine years, maintaining the native-plant database.   She has also worked on the Botanic Garden database, and volunteers at Te Papa, mounting and databasing plant specimens.


Wellington Botanical Society Bulletin - back-issues

Expand your collection of our informative “flagship” publication.

Limited numbers of copies of the following back issues are available:
•   1950s: no. 23 (9/50), no. 30 (12/58).
•   1960s: no. 32 (12/61), no. 33 (2/66), no. 34 (11/67), no. 35 (10/68), no. 36 (12/69). Index to Bulletins nos. 1-35.
•   1970s: no. 37 (11/71), no. 38 (9/74), no. 39 (10/76), no. 40 (8/78).
•   1980s: no. 41 (9/81), no. 42 (9/85), no. 43 (4/87), no. 44 (11/88), no. 45 (11/89).
•   1990s: no. 46 (12/94), no. 47 (9/96).
•   2000s: no. 48 (9/02), no. 49 (12/05).   Cost $5 per issue, incl. p&p; $15 for any five issues incl. p&p.

Copies of more recent Bulletins, no. 50 (3/07), no. 51 (11/08), no. 52 (4/10), no. 53 (6/11), no. 54 (11/12), no. 55 (11/14), and no. 56 (5/16) are $11 each incl. p&p, to members and other individuals, and $21 each incl. p&p, to organisations, posted within NZ.

Contact Chris Horne to confirm availability: JCHorne15 (at), phone 04 475 7025.

Please either:
•   make your cheque payable to Wellington Botanical Society, PO Box 10 412, Wellington 6143
•   or pay direct to the Society’s bank account 020536 0017812 00, with your name and Bulletin as reference.

Many thanks, Lea Robertson, Treasurer


Obituary – Roger Michael Greenwood 1920-2017

Michael was a member of Manawatu BotSoc, Wellington BotSoc, and Forest & Bird.   For over 30 years, he devoted five hours a day, five days a week, to look after Keeble’s Bush, near Palmerston North.   From 1943 until his retirement in 1980, he worked in DSIR’s Plant Chemistry Division, isolating Rhizobium bacterial strains for inoculating white clover, to enable it to fix nitrogen.

Michael was a tireless advocate for protecting native forests and bush remnants.   He was awarded the prestigious Loder Cup in 1993, NZ’s premier conservation award.   Michael was probably NZ’s foremost restoration ecologist, as well as being an inspired scientist, and an active and effective conservationist.

Reference: Forest & Bird, 366 Summer 2017, page 52.

September 2017 News

From the President

Planning is already underway for WBS’s 2018 Summer Camp.   It will be based at Taurewa Camp north-east of National Park village, from 4-11 January.   The variety of habitats in Tongariro National Park and vicinity, from lowland to alpine, means there will be plenty of interesting botanising for us to do in the area.   Auckland Botanical Society members have made recent trips to the area and recommended to us several walks with interesting botany.   Mike Wilcox is compiling a list of species for the Tongariro Ecological District, recording 810 native species to date - plenty to keep us busy!   To help the organisers, we are planning to be strict with deadlines for registration this year – please book early if you intend to come.

Lara Shepherd, President



DOC’s Draft Threatened Species Strategy

Key goals in the consultation draft included enhancing the populations of 150 priority species by 2025, and gradually increasing the number of species being managed from about 350 currently, to 500 by 2025 and 600 by 2030.   The 150 priority species are named, and include 39 vascular plants, five from a list of 50 ‘notable’ species, and 34 from the list of 100 species selected using a scientific algorithm.

Here are some points from our submission:

We hope the final TSS will contain more strategies for protecting NZ’s threatened and at-risk plant species.   Our vision is that “resilient populations of all threatened and atrisk species of plants are flourishing in the wild”.

The ‘threats’ diagram (p.10) shows only six threats to biodiversity, and most of the text is about one of those threats, introduced predators.   We suggested recognising more of the threats to plants, such as recruitment failure, pathogens such as Myrtle Rust, fires, and natural catastrophes, e.g., earthquakes and landslips.   We challenged the branding of rats and possums as ‘predators’ because it ignores their impacts on plants and ecosystems.   Rats and possums are predators; they do hunt animals, including birds and their eggs.   They are, however, better described as omnivores because they also eat plants, not just the leaves, but the flowers, fruits and seeds.

Weeds are recognised as a threat in the TSS, but the strategies are limited to removing wilding conifers, and raising public awareness of 12-13 weeds each year through the Minister’s “Dirty Dozen” campaign.   One estimate suggests there are already an estimated 300 environmental weed species on public conservation land, and many other introduced plants may become weedy as climate change advances.   Climate change is mentioned occasionally, but there are no strategies for addressing the potential impacts of climate change on NZ’s biodiversity.   Nor do the 10 Key Actions in the draft TSS include any strategies or tools for managing herbivores, (e.g., rabbits, hares, pigs, deer, chamois, thar, wallabies, and wandering stock).

Seed-banking is among the Top 10 Actions, but the draft TSS says little about other ex-situ approaches to plant conservation.   In this context, the new MOU between DOC and seven NZ BGANZ gardens (Botanic Gardens of Australia and NZ) is welcome because enhancing some threatened plant species in the wild will require specialist horticultural knowledge, skills, and facilities.   The successful multi-year programme at Otari to propagate and establish Brachyglottis kirkii var. kirkii plants achieved another step recently with plantings in the possum-free habitat behind the fence at Zealandia.

We also encouraged DOC to recognise that site-specific tools and guidelines are required to protect plants in-situ, e.g., how best to create the disturbed habitats preferred by early successional species; and when to allow light grazing to reduce competition from weeds.   There’s still a place for traditional approaches like fences and fenced exclosures.

The draft TSS included several informative conservation stories as ‘Spotlights’, but only one reported progress towards saving a threatened plant in the wild, (kakabeak).

The draft TSS did not recognise that geographic or social factors have implications for implementation.   We suggested that presenting the lists of priority threatened species in tables showing their geographic location(s) and ecosystem type may be more effective in promoting regional support for the priorities identified by central Government than lists of taxa groups by conservation status.

DOC and its partners now need to do for plants what the NZ Wildlife Service, DOC and universities have been doing for birds and a few other species for decades - identifying their biological, ecological and management requirements.

We didn’t argue about the 34 species on the list of priority plant species other than to suggest replacing the Chatham Island forget-me-not (widespread in cultivation), with pingao (culturally important), if the list of ‘notables’ can only contain five plant species.   We also asked for a better explanation of why there are seven species of Lepidium among the 34 species selected by the scientific algorithm.   If DOC can achieve measurable enhancements in the populations of 34 plant species by 2025, that will be worth a major celebration.

Environmental Education for Sustainability: Strategy and Action Plan 2017-2021

There is some fine rhetoric in this strategy that has now been approved by relevant Ministers.

EEfS is a holistic approach to creating a nation of innovative and motivated people who think and act sustainably.   It’s more than just communicating information about the environment and the ways in which it is currently threatened by human activity.   The strategy focuses on the key environmental challenges of climate change, water quality, biodiversity protection and waste.   We are putting more emphasis on practical, hands-on environmental education.   We want stronger linkages with the Government’s agenda on science and innovation.

The strategy explains that ‘educators’ in EEFS are not only those who work in formal education settings, but includes passionate people in the community, kaitiaki, NGOs, local government and many other organisations who are engaging New Zealanders in EEfS as part of their jobs or on a volunteer basis.   The Department of Conservation, the Ministry for the Environment, and the Ministry of Education are jointly leading this strategy.

So, what are these lead agencies going to do?   The clearest of nine actions commits them to providing “context-specific guidelines, tools and professional learning opportunities that support EEfS practices, including matauranga Maori perspectives.”   Most of the other actions are ill-defined, e.g.: celebrate exemplary practices and partnerships; leverage existing programmes; use new and evolving ways to connect; support EEfS leadership across different sectors; and strengthen and widen networks amongst those involved as kaitiaki and with EEfS.

Bev Abbott, Submissions Coordinator


President’s Report to the 78th Annual General Meeting of the Wellington Botanical Society

Highlights of the past year include the summer camp to Mangarakau, northwest Nelson, a varied programme of talks throughout the year and an increase in BotSoc membership.   It is encouraging to see more young people becoming members and attending our meetings and trips.

On a sadder note, five long-term members of BotSoc passed away this year: Stan Butcher, Jean Luke, Sheena Hudson, Nancy Malcolm and our former President and life member Barbara Mitcalfe.   Their presence at BotSoc trips and meetings is sorely missed.   Barbara’s contribution to botany in the Wellington region was recognised by obituaries in Trilepidea (the newsletter of the NZ Plant Conservation Network), the NZ Botanical Society Newsletter and The Dominion Post.

Conservation outcomes for our local plants have been mixed over the past year.   The purchase of the Forest of Tane for addition to the Outer Green Belt demonstrates Wellington City Council’s commitment to conservation.   In contrast Porirua City Council’s approval of the construction of mountain-bike tracks in Porirua Scenic Reserve, which contains some of the best tawa-kohekohe forest in the region is extremely disappointing.   Another concern is the recent long-anticipated arrival of myrtle rust in New Zealand, and we are yet to see the effects it will have on our native species.

Membership 2016/2017

Membership over the year has remained stable.   Presently we have 113 Ordinary Members, 32 Country Members, 61 Group Members, 31 Life Members, and 5 Student Members.   The total membership figure stands at 242, slightly up from 239 last year.   We have seen a welcome rise in the number of student members.


The summer trip to Mangarakau, in northwest Nelson was well-attended.   Leader Chris Moore did an excellent job of finding a variety of habitats to visit for the day trips, from coastal turf to wetlands and lowland forest.   Highlights included finding a new population of the rare forget-menot Myosotis aff. brockiei.   Thanks to all those involved in the organisation including Chris Moore and Richard Herbert for leadership, Chris Horne for permits, Julia Stace and Bev Abbott for catering and all those who contributed day-trip reports to the newsletter.   Support from DOC staff, who were able to attend some days was greatly appreciated.

There were ten other field trips within the wider Wellington region last year (and one cancelled trip), including a 4WD expedition into the Akatarawa Range organised by Owen Spearpoint, and ably assisted by drivers from the Cross-Country Vehicle Club.   It was great to see some of our often over-looked plants (mosses, liverworts, lichens and seaweeds) being the focus of trips.   Thank you to those who led trips and to Sunita Singh for organising the programme of trips.


Thanks also to Sunita for organising a varied and thought-provoking programme of talks this year, and to all our speakers for producing such engaging presentations.   Once again the AGM drew the biggest audience with 60 attendees with Landcare Research’s Matt McGlone giving a thought-provoking lecture on the woody flora of New Zealand in memory of Tony Druce.

The team of Rodney Lewington, Carol West and Peter Beveridge was a close second with 55 people attending to learn about mosses, liverworts and lichens.


Newsletter: Three issues of the newsletter were produced during the last year - September and December 2016, and May 2017.   Chris Horne and Jeremy Rolfe do a wonderful job of their preparation, formatting and production.

Website: Thank you to Richard Herbert who manages our web site at, and Julia White for dealing with enquiries.

Facebook page: the Wild Plants of Wellington Facebook page now has 237 members.   It continues to be a good way to attract new members, advertise our trips and meetings, and as a forum to discuss all things botanical.   Thanks to Julia White and Leon Perrie for administering the site.


It’s been a busy year for submissions.   In our response to Wellington City Council’s request for submissions on its Draft Open Space Access Plan, and its Draft Master Plan for Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park, we encouraged Council to make ecological and safety factors a higher priority.

We found little connection between BotSoc’s educational activities and the draft 10-year strategy for Draft Environmental Education for Sustainability released by DOC and the ministries of education and environment in 2016.   The actions in the final strategy talk of enhancing capability and capacity, celebrating success, and fostering networks for collaborative action.

The Discussion Document released by DOC, MfE and the Prime Minister’s Science Adviser presented some challenging ideas as part of a process to identify the priority research required to inform policy decisions over the next 20 years.   Botany was not a winner when the final Conservation and Environment Science Research Roadmap was approved by Cabinet in February 2017, but the biosecurity theme is likely to result in more funding for managing plant pests.

Just before Christmas 2016, the Department of Conservation (DOC) released its long overdue draft of the second CMS Wellington.   We encouraged DOC to improve the resilience of populations of indigenous species in the CMS area, particularly those already declining or at risk of extinction.   We hope the final CMS will respond to our suggestion that it’s time for DOC to start preparing for climate change.

As the financial year came to an end, DOC’s Draft Threatened Species Strategy focused our attention on DOC’s plans for protecting New Zealand’s threatened and at-risk species.   The plans for protecting plants are not well-developed, but if all goes well, the populations of five named plant species will be enhanced by 2025, and 34 others will be “managed for protection”.

Thank you to Bev Abbott for the huge amount of time you spend and the excellent job you do preparing and presenting submissions on behalf of the WBS.


Last year we only had one application for a student grant.   It was from Nathanael Walker-Hale who is studying the relationship between Betalain pigments and salt tolerance in Disphyma australe.   This carries on from research we have helped fund in the past.

The Jubilee Award went to Hannah Buckley at Lincoln, who is studying ecological resilience of sanddune ecosystems, particularly the population genetics and ecology of pingao.


The committee met regularly during the past year, mostly at the Leonard Cockayne Centre at Otari-Wilton’s Bush.   The committee has provided a huge amount of guidance to me as I moved into the President’s role and I would like to thank each of you for your support and patience, as well as all the time you have put into your committee roles.   Thank you Owen Spearpoint and Eleanor Burton (Vice Presidents), Frances Forsyth (minute taker), Bev Abbott (submissions coordinator), Barbara Clark (secretary), Lea Robertson (treasurer), Richard Herbert and Chris Horne; I have thoroughly enjoyed working with you all.

Other thanks and acknowledgements

In addition to the people acknowledged above, I would also like to thank the following:
•   Eleanor Burton for volunteering to be editor of the next Bulletin.
•   Barbara and Kevin Clark for hosting the annual committee BBQ at their house.
•   Lea Robertson, Hugh Robertson, Sunita Singh, Trudi Bruhlmann and Jill Goodwin for mailing out the newsletter, and Kaaren Mitcalfe for providing a venue for the last mail-out.
•   NZ Print for their work printing the three issues of the newsletter.
•   VUW for the use of Murphy Lecture Theatre 101 for holding our meetings.

Lara Shepherd, President





2017/18 committee

At the 78th Annual General Meeting, held on 21 August 2017, the following were elected:



Annual Report from the Treasurer, Wellington Botanical Society for the year ending 30 June 2017

The accounts for the financial year ended 30 June 2017 show a surplus of $1,133 on the normal operations of the Society recorded in the General Account.   The greater surplus is due to the fact that no Bulletin was published, and it was unnecessary to transfer as much money to provide for the print run coming up.   Operating expenses have been similar to previous years, with some decline in printing payments as more members opt to receive their newsletters electronically.   The transfer of $960 each year from the General Account to the Victoria University Student Field Grant Account represents the rent of the lecture room we use for meetings.   The University allows the Society to use the room for our monthly meetings free of charge.

On the income side, subscriptions received have increased.   Interest received declined, but this was anticipated last year.   Currently we have an average interest return of 3.71 % p.a. on invested funds down from 3.85 % p.a. last year.

$2,600 was awarded from the Jubilee Award Fund, $600 was given as a Victoria University Student Field Grant, and $150 was awarded to a school student at the NIWA Wellington Science Technology Fair 2016.   Jubilee Award Fund donations rose again this year, which is wonderful, and very much appreciated.   Sufficient funds have been put aside to cover the cost of printing Bulletin 57 in the 2017/2018 financial year.

Subscriptions for the year ended 30 June 2018:

The Society has decided to maintain subscriptions at the current level.

Ordinary membership $35, country $30, joint/family $40, student $10 (rebate of $5 if paid before 30 November 2017 - unless you choose to forego)

Lea Robertson, Hon. Treasurer


Percy Scenic Reserve News

During our trip in March to the Cobb Valley, Kahurangi National Park, NW Nelson, we collected seed from fifty plant species.   Thirty-seven are new to the collection.   We have sown some of each species, and placed the rest in storage.

So far thirty-seven batches have germinated with varying degrees of success - some with five or six plants, others with fifty or sixty.   Traversia baccharoides, Gentianella vernicosa, and Ourisia macrophylla subsp. lactea have germinated.   As the weather warms up, we hope more will germinate, including Drachophyllum traversii, Deyeuxia avenoides, Orthoceras novae zelandiae and several Thelymitra and Microtis species.

We have sown seed from our stored seed collection, with varying success.   Several seeds of Australopyrum calcis subsp. calcis, a grass species, have germinated.   It is on the Critically Endangered list.

We have planted another ninety plus Atriplex cinerea along Petone’s foreshore, near Korokoro gateway and Burden’s Gate, Eastbourne.   About 65% are female, the rest male.   They have been planted near those planted last year, which are thriving.

We have also done some planting round Percy Reserve and rockery.   We planted several Peoeromia here and there.   We planted Poa anceps and Anthosachne solandri above the car park ponga wall in an attempt to soften that hard line.

We lost some large trees in the July storm, including a large Myoporum laetum / ngaio in the fernery and a large Vitex lucens / puriri behind the pond.   Unfortunately they knocked over several other trees as they fell, leaving some large gaps which will take time to fill.

Cliff Keilty, Percy Scenic Reserve


Water-quality testing

The WAI NZ RiverWatch PledgeMe campaign is now underway.   RiverWatch has been developed from a five-year programme with Victoria University.   We are doing research and development for E. coli, nitrate and phosphate water testers and loggers.

This has been developed by a NZ non-profit organisation.   All profits from the IP will go back into future restoration and conservation projects within NZ.


Philip Simpson’s book ‘Totara’



In June Potton and Burton launched Auckland University Press’s new book, Totara A Natural and Cultural History by Philip Simpson.   For information on this book and to look inside follow this link:


May 2017 News

From the President

The weather in Wellington this summer may have been disappointing, but there have still been great turnouts for the 2017 field trips to date.   The next trip, to Akatarawa Forest, is also likely to prove popular with field trips to remote and difficult to access spots always popular with our members.   A WBS trip is planned for the Forest of Tane in Tawa.   This forest was recently purchased by Wellington City Council to add to the Outer Green Belt.   With all the talk of housing shortages, and rising house prices, it is fantastic that there are still opportunities for new reserves to be created in our region.

The WBS’s unofficial Facebook page, Wild Plants of Wellington, now has over 200 members.   This page provides an opportunity to advertise our trips and talks, as well as other botanical events.   It also allows people to post photos of plants to be identified and ask botany-related questions.   If you are on Facebook, but aren’t a member of Wild Plants of Wellington, then I suggest that you consider joining.

Lara Shepherd, President




The Department of Conservation invited submissions on its Draft Conservation Management Strategy Wellington 2016 in December 2016, ten years after the statutory date for its review.   (The Minister granted several extensions).   Consultation on Wellington’s first CMS (1996-2005), occurred over 20 years ago, from March to May 1994.

The first CMS (statutory), and the non-statutory Wellington Plant Conservation Strategy 2004-2010, established a sound foundation for plant conservation in the CMS area, but it’s hard to recall any reports on progress.   Development of the second Wellington CMS provides an opportunity to revitalise a more collaborative approach to the management and conservation of species and populations of our indigenous plants.   It would also show support for The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation 2011-2020, which the NZ Government ratified in 2001 as part of the international Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).   Objectives in the CBD emphasise working together at all levels, i.e., local, regional, national and global to address the many threats to plant diversity.

We asked for six major changes in emphasis in the CMS, i.e.:
•   Indigenous plant populations :   More and better integrated programmes to improve the resilience of populations of indigenous plants in the CMS area, particularly those already declining or at risk of extinction.
•   Priority ecosystem management units:   More summary information about these units in Part One, and more operational details and milestones in Part Two. There are only 24 of these priority units in the Wellington CMS area, and they cover only a small percentage of public conservation land in that area.   DOC didn’t say how much.
•   Invasive weeds:   More ambitious milestones for the management of invasive weeds.   (The distribution and density is not meant to get worse).
•   Project Kaka:   A commitment to publish findings from the Project Kaka study of changes in forest condition resulting from the changed approach to pest control.
•   Public participation:   More investment in education and interpretation, and raising awareness of the need for better protection of NZ’s indigenous plants.
•   Climate change:   New objectives and policies to address the most imminent threats of climate change on natural resources.   We also asked for a realistic Vision, SMART milestones, and better monitoring and reporting to the public.

PSGEs:   The draft CMS also includes objectives, policies and milestones for DOC’s relationships with new entities called Post Settlement Governance Entities (PSGEs). These entities will receive Treaty settlements on behalf of iwi members when each settlement is ratified by iwi members.   One milestone shows that by Year 10, DOC will have progressed conservation related projects of strategic priority to PSGEs and tangata whenua.

Next Steps:   After hearings in May 2017, DOC will present a revised draft to the Wellington Conservation Board, and when the Board is satisfied, it will go to the NZ Conservation Authority for approval.


This plan outlined Wellington City Council’s (WCC) plans for twenty-four sections of new track at Makara Peak, totalling 16km in length.   Most are to have “a discreet, intimate feel and be within a closed tree canopy throughout” or be “in a closed tree canopy wherever possible”.   We argued that Makara Peak is more than a network of mountain bike tracks; it is 250ha of recovering forest in which there is a network of mountain bike tracks.   We recommended that WCC seek further advice about the ecological implications of this approach, (e.g., fragmentation, edge effects).   We argued that a “Master Plan” should also reflect the Makara Peak Ecological Restoration Plan prepared by Wildlands in 2013.   We also encouraged WCC to repair tracks throughout the city that have already been damaged by mountain bikers, and either upgrade or close off unauthorised tracks, before investing in new tracks.




The approved Roadmap was published by the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) in February.   BotSoc’s December 2016 Newsletter has more information about the purpose of the Roadmap and our submission.   We were one of 88 submitters.

A new feature of the Roadmap is the list of sixteen indicative priorities for the next five years.   The list is still ambitious, for example:
•   Widely accepted and affordable solutions to invasive pests, weeds and diseases that have high-risk conservation, economic or health implications;
•   Cost-effective technologies to manage the threats to native species, particularly to help achieve the ‘predator-free New Zealand 2050’ goal;
•   Improved tools for completing taxonomic inventories of coastal and oceanic species and land-based invertebrates;
•   Comprehensive models of New Zealanders’ values, beliefs and understanding of conservation and the environment;
•   New and improved tools for gathering and reporting data on condition and trends for our land, fresh water, air and marine environments.

A list of all the 5-year priorities is in the two-page Roadmap at a Glance on the MfE website.   The full Roadmap has sixty-five pages (plus glossary and appendices).   Printed copies are not available.

There’s not much about threatened plants in the Roadmap.   “New Zealand now has a large list of threatened and endangered plants and animals, including the quillwort (a critically endangered aquatic fern), the kiwi species, Maui’s dolphin, the NZ sea lion, and the Canterbury knobbled weevil.” (p.56).

Quillworts are fern allies; rather than ferns, and the NZ species belongs to the genus Isoetes in the Lycopsida.   It’s an aquatic plant with upright, tubular leaves that usually grows at the bottom of lakes and mountain tarns.

The Ministry for Primary Industries is developing a separate but aligned roadmap which will focus on key science and technology needs and opportunities for protecting and growing NZ’s primary industries, and improving the associated environmental outcomes.


BotSoc was one of 198 individuals and groups that submitted on the Draft Strategy for Environmental Education for Sustainability.   We weren’t very complimentary (see the December newsletter).   Brief feedback on DOC’s web site suggests it’s back to the drawing board for this ‘strategy’ which is now described as a survey.   For example, only 68% agreed that the actions under the priority areas were the right ones to focus on at this time.

Bev Abbott, Submissions Coordinator


Myrtle rust reported in Kerikeri on 4 May

This rust-fungus is a disease-causing pathogen from South America.   It can cause the decline and death of plants in the Myrtaceae family.   If the disease arrives in NZ, it would threaten our several species of rata trees and vines, manuka, kanuka, Syzygium maire / swamp maire, Lophomyrtus bullata / ramarama and L. obcordata, and Neomyrtus pedunculata.   In addition, it could affect feijoa, guava and eucalypts.

Its spores are spread by the wind, animals, people, insects and dirty equipment.   It invaded parts of the east coast of Australia and became widespread within five years.   It was found on Raoul Island in March this year on a Kermadec pohutukawa / Metrosideros kermadecensis.

Stages of infestation:
1.   Purple blotches, spotting, and deformation / curling of leaves;
2.   bright yellow to orange pustule spores.

What to do
•   Do not touch the infestation;
•   Take photographs if possible;
•   GPS the site if possible;
•   Mark the site, e.g., with coloured tape;
•   Ring the Ministry of Primary Industries’ hot line 0800 80 99 66 immediately;
•   Ring your nearest DOC office;
•   If any of your clothing might be contaminated, put it in a plastic bag, and leave it at the site.

Adapted from Zealandia Sanctuary bulletin 28.4.17

Visit to view the Ministry of Primary Industries’ fact sheet.


Obituary – Barbara Jean Mitcalfe 25.11.1928 - 7.1.2017

Barbara collapsed at home on 6 January, and died the following day.   Barbara led a very full life, raising five children, and was involved with starting the first Maori preschool in NZ, before eventually moving to Wellington.   She was a long-term staff member, teaching Communication Studies, at the former Wellington Polytechnic.   Barbara joined BotSoc in 1980, served on our committee in the 1980s, was president during our Jubilee year in 1989, and was later our submissions co-ordinator.   She proposed the establishment of the Jubilee Award, attended scores of BotSoc field trips, and co-led one or two a year.   Her love of native plants resulted in contract botanical work in the 1990s and 2000s for DOC, GWRC, WCC and HCC.   An athlete in her youth, she became a capable tramper, revelling in long traverses in the ranges, ever on the look-out for interesting plants.

Detailed obituaries have appeared in:
1.   The February issue of Trilepidea, the newsletter of the NZ Plant Conservation Network;
2.   The March issue of NZ Botanical Society Newsletter.

Chris Horne


Otari-Wilton’s Bush news

There have been various developments happening at Otari that I hope you’ll come to see on your next visit.   We also have two exciting plant-conservation projects under way.

First, we have been continuing the development of the lower collections below the Cockayne Lookout.   This area we are calling the ‘adaptation garden’.   The three themes will be how plants have adapted to their environment, how they cope with pests and predators, and how they are pollinated and disperse seed.   The adjacent wetland garden is establishing very well.   Although the wetland garden is a representation of a wetland, rather than actually being one, it does capture a lot of the rainwater runoff from the upper collections.

Next to the wetland we are introducing a climbers’ and epiphyte garden.   We have recently installed tree-fern logs for plants to grow on, and the first few plants have been planted to climb up them.   You will see plants that root, scramble, twine, hook or wrap with tendrils in pursuit of light.   And finally, we are planting duplicates of the Te Papa Renee Orchison harakeke collection in the north picnic lawn.   The plants are all Phormium tenax, but recognised as having variations in their weaving qualities.   The complete collection really is a national treasure.   Interpretation for all of the newly developed gardens will arrive soon.

The next month will see results of two plant conservation initiatives facilitated through Otari.   For the last five years we have been collecting cuttings and seed from Brachyglottis kirkii var. kirkii, a regionally uncommon plant.   Kirk’s tree daisy / kohurangi is usually an epiphyte.   It has been recorded from Otari previously.   The plant is now unknown from Wellington lowland forest, being reduced to very small populations (no more than 20 plants at each site) at Wainuiomata, Kaitoke and the Akatarawa area.   Seed was collected and sown from the plants that have been cultivated together at Otari’s nursery since 2012.   We will be conducting two planting experiments, one at Otari, and one at Zealandia.   We want to know the best planting techniques (on the ground, in a tree), best aspect, light conditions, and most of all monitor for any successful recruitment.   Look out for updates and interpretation at both sites by the end of this month.   Further controlled pollination and germination experiments are also being conducted by our Science and Conservation Advisor, Karin Van der Walt at the Botanic Garden.

Another plant we have recently been cultivating is Olearia adenocarpa, a nationally critical plant endemic to the Canterbury plains.   The main threat to Olearia adenocarpa is browse by unfenced cattle.   Ecologist Debra Wotton, from Moa’s Ark Research, collected the seed from Rakaia Island and did germination trials at Otari.   The successful seedlings raised in the nursery here (about 70 plants) will be sent to Christchurch City Council to be planted for restoration work.   We will keep a small number of them here, and no doubt these will soon be planted near our rain-shadow garden.

Finn Michalak Acting Team Manager, Otari-Wilton’s Bush, Email finn.michalak (at)


Percy Scenic Reserve news

We sowed about 200 seeds collected from our Celmisia ‘mangaweka’.   About thirty have germinated so far.

With a collection permit granted by DOC, John Van Den Hoeven, Jonathan Bussell (representing Hutt City Council), and I, went seed-collecting in the Cobb Valley, Cobb Ridge, and Peel Ridge area of Kahurangi National Park, NW Nelson.

In two days’ work we collected seed from over 50 species of plants, some 47 new to the Percy Reserve collection.   Among these were several Celmisia species, e.g., C. verbascifolia subsp membranacea, C. spectabilis subsp spectabilis and C. traversii, Raoulia glabra, a couple of Gentianella spp, including G. patula, Acaena species, including A anserinifolia, Helichrysum filicaule, Rytidosperma species, etc.

We had two days of great weather, enjoyed wonderful views, and found a huge diversity of plant species.   It was great to see the plants I look after at Percy Reserve growing in situ.   We have sown batches of each species of seed we collected.   Several seeds have begun to germinate, the first about ten days after sowing.   We are now looking forward to seeing what does eventually germinate and getting them potted up.

Cliff Keilty, Percy Scenic Reserve, Petone, Lower Hutt


Obituary – Sheena Hudson 11.12.1943 - 29.3.2017

Sheena joined BotSoc in 1990 and over the years, came on numerous field trips, long and short, and attended evening meetings.   As a long-term BotSoccer, a scholar and a researcher, she was the right person to volunteer to interview numerous older members of the society about their memories of overnight field trips.   The result was Wellington Botanical Society overnight field trips: an evolving phenomenon.   This important record of the society’s history was published in the WBS Bulletin No. 56 June 2016.   It was typical of Sheena, gregarious, effervescent, and always keen to learn, that she came on Leon Perrie’s South Coast seaweeds trip on 4 March, less than a month before she died.   We offer our condolences to her husband, BotSoccer Stuart.

Chris Horne


December 2016 News

From the President

The past few weeks have seen many of us gain a new appreciation (and fear!) of our tectonically active country.   Not surprisingly, reports of the earthquake’s impacts on our ecosystems have focused on animals.   What about the plants?   Past research has shown that tree deaths may occur immediately as a result of shaking or landslides, and that some of the trees that survive the initial ‘quake die in subsequent years.   However, it is not all bad news - tree-ring cores have shown that many of the plants that do survive show boosted growth from increased availability of light and nutrients, and the new habitats created offer opportunities for regeneration.   This research shows that major earthquakes are an important factor in driving forest dynamics in tectonically active regions.

As the year comes to an end, I’d like to thank all our speakers, trip leaders and the committee for their efforts.

Lara Shepherd, President


Conservation and Environment Science Roadmap Discussion Paper

For too long, politicians have expected scientists to deliver sound scientific advice on complex issues at short notice.   This Discussion Paper is part of an initiative to identify the priorities for research in the spheres of conservation and the environment that will be conducted over the next twenty years to support decision-making for conservation and environmental policy and management.

The paper was the result of targeted engagement with science and policy organisations, key stakeholders and tangata whenua, under the oversight of a Strategic Advisory Group chaired by the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman.

The input was clustered into twelve themes that covered, not just ecosystems such as freshwater, but diverse topics including climate change, biosecurity, social and economic dimensions, Matauranga Maori, informatics, modelling and monitoring.   The following extract from the “New Technologies” theme illustrates the context and challenge of policy-making in NZ today:

The introduction of new technologies involves weighing the potential risks against the benefits that may be achieved.   In the case of pest management, the risks associated with genetic technologies need to be weighed against the risks of alternative management strategies (e.g., pesticides), and against the risks of uncontrolled pest invasion.   Scientific evidence is key to such decisions, although society’s values and perceptions of risk are also critical factors in the equation.   Understanding the value that society places on various outcomes - for example being ‘GM-free’, pesticide-free, or retaining our native forests and birds - provides a basis for deliberation and constructive debate so acceptable solutions can be found.

Discussion Paper page 14

Research questions under the theme, Populations and Species, included:

Can overlapping climate change and species tolerance models and maps be developed to identify range effects and ongoing conservation needs so we can more proactively manage species and populations, particularly in light of the very slow ability many species have to evolve to climate change?

Our submission included twenty-six recommendations, each supported by a brief rationale.   Three examples follow.

1.   Increase investment in the management of NZ’s taxonomic collections.

The Royal Society’s Expert Panel identified this need in 2015.   Specific botanical tasks include reducing the number of data-deficient and undescribed taxa of vascular and nonvascular plants, and fungi.

2.   What additional endemic hotspots should be protected permanently under conservation legislation?

Heenan‘s 2011 analysis (using Biodiverse) showed only 40% of the areas that are hotspots for endemic plant species, and only 29% of hotspots for endemic genera, are on the DOC conservation estate.   Implementation of biodiversity off-sets may generate new opportunities to achieve statutory protection of other hotspots.

3.   Identify the priorities for emerging soil-science capabilities.

Soils are a precious and finite resource that contributes to biodiversity protection, ecosystem services (e.g., water filtration), carbon storage and economic growth.   An early priority is to identify or develop accepted methodologies for assessing the current and changing status of soil biota.   Many different soil-related capabilities will be required, e.g., knowledge of soil biota, ecological dependencies, such as mycorrhizal fungi, and the implications for soils and seed-banks of exotic surface vegetation, e.g., wilding pines, gorse, and hawkweed.

Next steps : Officials are optimistic that the final Research Roadmap may be approved by Cabinet by April.


Draft Strategy for Environmental Education for Sustainability 2016-2026

DOC, MfE, and the Ministry of Education, recently ‘refreshed’ an earlier environmental education strategy, starting with a very different vision, i.e., “New Zealanders are innovative and motivated people who work together for social, economic and environmental sustainability”.   Under earlier environmental education frameworks, groups such as BotSoc could be regarded as part of the environmental education sector, because we deliver education in the environment (our field trips), education about the environment (our lectures and publications), and education for the environment (submissions and a restoration project).

We proposed an alternative vision: “ lift the environmental knowledge, values and skills of all New Zealanders, and support them to become active stewards of the environment now and into the future.”

“Emphasising care for our biodiversity, land, freshwater, marine environment, air, atmosphere and climate” was one of twelve ‘roles’ in the draft Environmental Education for Sustainability (EEfS).   Regrettably, however, this was the only role to mention the natural environment and natural resources.

The draft strategy is meant to be applicable to local government and businesses, as well as the education sector.   We recommended developing EEfS guidelines for the ‘business sector’ at the sub-sector level, e.g., fishing, forestry, bee-keeping, dairying, water management, waste management, and distribution of goods.

Our submission identified the significant potential for better integration between science education and EEfS at the secondary-school level.   All citizens now need to be aware of issues such as climate change and genetic resilience, and be able to evaluate associated information, and influence policy decisions

Bev Abbott, Submissions Coordinator


Letters to the editor

We would welcome your comments on any aspect of BotSoc’s activities:
•   places you would like to visit on field trips
•   topics you would like to have covered in evening meetings
•   topics you would like covered in BotSoc’s Bulletin and Newsletter
•   other matters of concern or interest to you.

If you would like to offer to lead a field trip, or be a deputy leader on a field trip, please contact our programme organiser, Sunita Singh, Email sunita (at)

Thank you, The committee


Presentation of the Allan Mere Award for 2016 to John Dawson

On 13 October, John Dawson was presented with the Allan Mere at an afternoon tea organised by Wellington Botanical Society.   The ceremony was attended by a veritable who’s who of Wellington botanists and ecologists, as well as family and friends.   It was held in the Leonard Cockayne Centre, Otari-Wilton’s Bush, a fitting location, given John has given many talks and tours there over the years.   Anthony’s korero to the group follows:

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa
Nga mihi nui ki a koutou
Tihei mauriora

I’m delighted to be here to celebrate the achievements of Dr John Dawson, and make the 2016 presentation of the Allan Mere.   To give a little background to the award, the Allan Mere was donated by Dr Lucy Moore in 1982 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Harry Howard Barton Allan, first Director of Botany Division, DSIR, and author of Volume 1 of the Flora of New Zealand.   The Allan Mere is awarded annually by the NZ Botanical Society from nominations by regional botanical societies, or individual members, to persons who have made outstanding contributions to botany in NZ.   The Mere is housed at the Allan Herbarium at Landcare Research, Lincoln.

Dr John Dawson presented with Allan Mere Award

NZBS President Anthony Wright presenting the Allan Mere Award for 2016 to Dr John Dawson.   Photo: Chris Moore.

The NZBS Committee voted to award the Allan Mere for 2016 to Dr John Dawson, and it is my pleasure to present this award to John today.   The nomination was made by Wellington Botanical Society and supported by Katharine Dickinson (Professor of Botany, University of Otago), Phil Garnock-Jones (Emeritus Professor, Victoria University of Wellington, and Neill and Barbara Simpson of Queenstown.   The nomination papers outline John’s scholarly research on NZ and Pacific plants, his decades of university teaching and research supervision, his extensive community outreach and promotion of botanical knowledge, and his acclaimed books on NZ plant diversity and ecology.   I shall read a few extracts from the nomination papers, which give some insights into the range of John’s contributions:
•   “John has a rare ability to engage the public and convey his knowledge, and he has never lost his enthusiasm to share.”
•   “I believe his books are the cornerstone achievement for which he richly deserves this award, especially the magnificent NZ’s Native Trees (with Rob Lucas)”
•   “I want to draw attention also to his primary research on NZ Metrosideros and Apiaceae, and Pacific Myrtaceae, his enthusiastic teaching and community outreach, and his generous support of students and visiting researchers.”
•   “In addition to his scholarship and expertise, John’s personal qualities of calmness, kindness, consideration and generosity have earned him the respect of colleagues, students and the public.”

Before presenting the Mere, I need to tell John that one of Lucy Moore’s rules was that the Mere be kept safe at the Allan Herbarium, and only ‘let out’ for the presentation ceremonies.   So John, you should make the most of holding it today!   I’m pleased to say that you do get to keep a fine calligraphed certificate marking the award, as well as a bound copy of your nominators’ and seconders’ letters leading to the award.

Now I’d like to read out the formal citation entered into the Allan Mere Record Book:

“As an academic, John’s research focused on the taxonomy of Apiaceae and Myrtaceae, along with contributions to biogeography and plant growth-form research.   John exhibited a rare ability to engage the public and convey his knowledge, and wrote eight books on the ecology and identification of New Zealand plants.   He inspired many to become amateur or professional botanists”.

“Congratulations, John, on your dedication to botany and the significant achievements you’ve made.   I have much pleasure in presenting you with the Allan Mere.”

Anthony Wright, President, New Zealand Botanical Society


NZ Botanical Society newsletter no. 126, December 2016


The Untold Story of New Zealand’s wetlands

John Preece’s presentation to Canterbury Botanical Society’s November meeting reminded everyone that wetlands still remain highly vulnerable to degradation and destruction, despite some changes in attitude over recent decades.   The record is sobering - we have lost 90% of our wetlands, with some districts having lost even more, especially on private land and in the lowlands.   Canterbury has an especially poor record.   At an international scale, NZ has the unenviable distinction of being second (behind Italy) in overall wetland loss.   Our implementation of the Ramsar Convention is poor, with no dedicated policy or legislation.   Yet despite being on the slippery slope of the species / area curve, many wetlands are still being degraded or destroyed, whilst those that remain are frequently treated with disregard for their functional benefits, such as flood amelioration, nutrient attenuation and habitat opportunities.   Many wetlands occur on private land where awareness and protection efforts are sparse.   Even some wetlands under Crown ownership are still being degraded through inappropriate management.

Early Maori regarded wetlands as a highly important and valued resource.   The attitude of early European colonists was very different; wetlands were simply regarded as unproductive impediments to agricultural development.   It took only a few decades for many lowland wetlands to be drained, yet central government still provided much legislative and other support for drainage, right through to the late 1900s.   Awareness is changing - audible stirrings of concern began soon after the mid-1900s, and the tide is arguably slowing, though attitudes could not yet be described as transformed.   Non-binding policies and inconsistent interpretation of legislation still allow loss to continue.   In 2007, the protection of wetlands was included in the government’s four national priorities for biodiversity protection.   Yet we are still experiencing extinctions, there is continuing fragmentation, reduction in ecosystem services, loss of mahinga kai, and loss of environmental archives.   John noted that we shouldn’t expect a rapid change in governmental attitude, and that a reversal would probably need protection and restoration to be driven from the ground up.   On the positive side, other countries have shown that trends can be reversed - USA is now experiencing a net increase in wetland area, largely achieved through offsets and economic pressures.   John also noted that Canterbury still retains some stunning wetlands, especially in the high country, e.g., there are several beautiful examples in the upper Waitaki River catchment.

Source: Canterbury Botanical Society newsletter, December 2016.


BotSoc makes awards

Hannah Buckley received the Jubilee Award 2016, for research into the genetics and ecology of pingao / Ficinia spiralis.   There was only one application for a student grant.   It went to Nathanael Walker-Hale for research into betalain pigments and salt tolerance in Disphyma australe / NZ ice plant, and Sarcocornia quinqueflora / glasswort.   This carries on from research for which we have given grants in previous years.

Eleanor Burton


Baring Head

We have been busy at Baring Head since my report in the May newsletter.   Completion of the main fence protecting the river, river flats and escarpment has enabled us to begin planting of the oxbows.   Workbees in June and July planted 3,430 seedlings, and placed bait stations to target rodents in lizard hotspots.   A line of Timms traps will soon be installed to complement the DOC200 traps in these areas.

The cushion-field fence mentioned in my May report has been completed, and looks really good.   We will monitor what happens to the turf communities inside it, and explore the potential to reintroduce species such as Pimelea that have been lost from that area.   Without grazing, we may have to do more weed control, but hope the turf community will become denser and able to inhibit weeds over time.

Thanks to a superb effort over several years, including by BotSoccers, we have now cleared horned poppies from the beaches along Baring Head.   We have completed at least one operation along the entire coast - an objective that felt like a pipe-dream when we started grubbing out the dense infestation on the southern foreshore.   In Fitzroy Bay, we are seeing only a few new plants appearing - virtually no seeds were produced last season (except on the private land).   This gives us confidence that eradication is possible.   Our goals this summer will be to prevent any more horned-poppy seed being produced on any of the coastline, so that we can start tackling other weeds, and encourage native recovery.

We have a new raoulia turf developing on the south coast near the Wainuiomata River mouth.   We will focus on removing all weeds there, and perhaps adding some large logs to reduce sheep trampling, and provide some shelter from southerlies.

The next big problem to tackle is tree lupins / Lupinus arboreus.   These have been spreading.   We were concerned that the disturbance to the gravel caused by grubbing out poppies was encouraging lupin seeds to germinate, but there are as many, or more, seedlings in areas without poppies, so either sheep trampling has the same effect, or something else is happening.   Whatever, this is now becoming an urgent problem.   We have established an experimental control area to see if just cutting them at the base is enough, as the cut-and-poison method we have used is slower and more expensive.   Lupins can be easily pulled out of looser gravel until they are about a year old, so that may be the best way to prevent them expanding into areas they don’t infest.

A recent workbee focussed on weeding an expanding area of Poa cita / silver tussock near the boulders.   Priority will also be given to removing tree lupins from the Spinifex sericeus / silvery sand grass margins, and providing access to predator traps now hidden by dense stands.

The dreaded Senecio glastifolus / holly-leaved senecio is beginning to appear on the property.   We will remove seed heads from this weed opportunistically when we visit the site for other reasons, as it could compromise many of its ecological values if not tackled promptly.

On a more positive note, 100 Ficinia spiralis / pingao recently planted are doing well and seem to be established.

As always, we would welcome your help.   Call me on 478 4391, or e-mail rydercj (at) if you are interested.

Colin Ryder, Treasurer, Friends of Baring Head


Otari-Wilton’s Bush report

Kia ora koutou.

What a time we are having in Wellington with earthquakes and flooding.   I hope you and your families are safe and well.   We have survived relatively unscathed here at Otari, with minor damage to track surfaces that will be fixed soon.

The gardens are looking great, with all the rain we are having.   Plantings done over the last six months are growing quickly, and many are in full flower.   Other plants are growing well, and some of the changes we implemented in the last six months are starting to bed in.

In the lower entrance to the fernery you will see a new installation of pou (posts) marking the entrance.   Wood carvers from Naenae’s Menz Shed shaped the pou with representations of NZ’s flora and fauna.   The pou are made from timber taken from storm-damaged trees in Otari’s forest.

On the conservation front, we are making good progress with the Department of Conservation (DOC), and with other botanic gardens around NZ (collectively BGANZ) towards a National Ex-situ Plant Conservation Strategy for NZ.   In November we ran a workshop to discuss what a strategy might look like.   The workshop followed a meeting held in May where DOC and BGANZ agreed to enter into an agreement in which:
•   BGANZ supports DOC’s in-situ indigenous plant conservation utilising BGANZ ex-situ capabilities, and
•   BGANZ and DOC will work together to develop and implement a national ex-situ plant conservation strategy.

In future, we hope to see this work helping to co-ordinate ex-situ conservation activities across NZ, avoiding duplication, identifying gaps and sharing knowledge.

We have also entered into an agreement with Zealandia / Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, to work together on translocating kohurangi (Brachyglottis kirkii var. kirkii) back in to Otari and Zealandia.   We know that kohurangi once occurred in the area, and would like to see it here again.   We are planning to do some planting trials early next year, once temperatures start to drop.   We have applied to Victoria University to have a student work on this over summer, and it looks like we have interest from Master’s degree students.   This ties in nicely with plans in 2018 to release titipounamu / rifleman into Otari, in conjunction with a release into Zealandia in 2017.   Kind regards.

Rewi Elliot, Team Manager, Otari-Wilton’s Bush.   Email rewi.elliot (at)

BotSoc congratulates Rewi Elliot on his election as president of the NZ Plant Conservation Network at the AGM held in The Tree House, Wellington Botanic Garden, on 11 October.

Lara Shepherd, President


In memorium

Stan Butcher, 1924-2016

Stan, a long-term BotSoccer, was a member of “Dads’ Army”, the Forest & Bird group dedicated to revegetating Wellington Harbour’s Matiu / Somes Island.

Cath Matthews, 1924-2016

Cath was a long-term BotSoccer who loved field trips and the companionship they provided.   Her work-a-day claim to fame was as driver of a rural-schools mobile-library truck, starting in the 1940s.

Dr Alan Esler, 1929-2016

Alan who joined BotSoc in 1960, was a well-respected botanist.   Among his publications are Botany of the Manawatu and Wild plants of Auckland.



September 2016 News

From the President

Thank you for electing me President of Wellington Botanical Society.   For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a research scientist at Te Papa, with a long interest in all things botanical.   I look forward to meeting those of you I don’t yet know - please feel free to introduce yourself to me at the next meeting or field trip.

I would like to thank:
•   Karen Palmer, our outgoing President, for the excellent leadership she has provided over the past year.
•   Rita Chin for her work as our auditor for the past two years.

The committee seeks an additional member, so please tell us if you would like to volunteer.

At our AGM last month we were treated to a fascinating A P Druce Memorial Lecture by Landcare’s Matt McGlone.   Matt started with a photographic trip down memory lane, featuring many of NZ’s prominent botanists, including Tony Druce.   He then discussed plant distributions in NZ, focusing on why some plants are missing from regions in which they might be predicted to occur.   Our September meeting will provide an introduction to identifying lichens, mosses, liverworts and hornworts.   This will be followed in October by a field trip to put your new knowledge into practice.   I’ve attended several bryophyte workshops, so I can recommend taking the time to learn more about the often-overlooked non-vascular plants.

There are limited places available for the upcoming summer camp to northwest Nelson, so please register promptly, using the registration form in this newsletter.   Given the remoteness of the area, early confirmation of numbers is important for the organising committee’s planning.

Lara Shepherd, President


Draft Open Space Access Plan

Mountain-bikers responded enthusiastically to Wellington City Council’s (WCC) recent invitation to comment on its Draft Open Space Access Plan.   WCC has proposed that most tracks will be shared use, i.e., for bikers and walkers / runners.   But mountain bikers wanted more; particularly new, highly-technical routes to provide more opportunities for local riders to develop their skills to higher levels.   They anticipate associated benefits for tourism.   About twenty walks will remain closed to cyclists and mountain-bikers.

WCC also sought views on opening up nine tracks for users of electric-bikes - ‘e-bikes’.   We opposed this as very little information is available about the impacts of e-bikes on track surfaces, and it isn’t clear how WCC will manage compliance if e-bikes up to 300 watts will be allowed, but not more powerful models.

Positives in the plan included new assessment criteria for planning new tracks.   WCC has recognised the importance of protecting significant ecological sites and trees from the negative impacts of the track construction and use.   We argued for closer supervision of track development, whether the work is being done by volunteers or contractors.   Chris Horne and I attended a useful workshop with mountain-bike representatives that WCC staff had organised to further develop the assessment criteria.

We were pleased to see that WCC had recognised unlawful / informal track-building as a threat to the network, but as yet, it’s not clear what WCC intends to do about this.

We supported developing the Rural Coastal Connection, a 2-day walk between Owhiro Bay and Makara Beach.   If access over some private land can be negotiated, this track will make it easier for more people to see the interesting indigenous plant communities that Chris Horne and Barbara Mitcalfe saw when they walked and botanised the route in the early 1990s.

Conservation and Environment Science Roadmap

In July, Government released a Discussion Paper, the next step towards identifying the areas of scientific knowledge that governments will need as they face up to complex policy trade-offs between environmental protection and economic development over the next twenty years.   A separate roadmap is being prepared for primary-sector science.

The twelve themes in the Discussion Document include climate change, biosecurity, and Matauranga Maori.   Each theme includes enduring and specific research questions.   Theme 7, Populations and Species, is probably the most relevant to BotSoc, given that 918 species of vascular plants are threatened or at risk of extinction.   The Theme 7 enduring question asks:

Are there smarter, more innovative and cost-eff ective ways of managing and protecting our indigenous biodiversity in the face of multiple and increased cumulative challenges?

One of the related specific research questions asks:

Can overlapping climate change and species tolerance models and maps be developed to identify range eff ects and ongoing conservation needs so we can more proactively manage species and populations, particularly in light of the very slow ability many species have to evolve to climate change?

We’ll be lodging a submission on this thought provoking Discussion Paper.

Bev Abbott, Submissions Coordinator


Letters to the editor

We would welcome your comments on any aspect of BotSoc’s activities:
•   places you would like to visit on field trips
•   topics you would like to have covered in evening meetings
•   topics you would like covered in BotSoc’s Bulletin and Newsletter
•   other matters of concern or interest to you.

If you would like to offer to lead a field trip, or be a deputy leader on a field trip, please contact our programme organiser, Sunita Singh, Email sunita (at)

Thank you, The committee


President’s Report to the 77th Annual General Meeting of the Wellington Botanical Society

“Botany is not just an excuse to tramp slowly - it is also the reason.” - John Sawyer (1968-2015).

2016 has been a most interesting year for the Society.   WBS has now passed the three-quarters of a century mark.   An achievement if ever there was one.   The highlights included the summer camp based at Te Kauri Lodge, West Waikato, and the A.P. Druce Memorial Lecture 2015 given by Bill Lee, Conservation Ecologist, Landcare Research, Dunedin, who addressed the complex interactions between organisms large and small in ensuring successful succession of native plants.   A lowlight was the death of John Sawyer in Scotland last November.   He was a major force in DOC, raising the profile of our indigenous plants, a leader of BotSoc trips and Bulletin Editor, and writer of a substantial academic botanic portfolio.   His obituary can be found in the ‘News Snippets’ on the web site.

It is perhaps timely to remind members that there is a large amount of information about people and plants on the web site, as well as historical information dating from 2012 in the ‘News Snippets’.

Membership 2015/16

There was a slight decrease in membership recorded over the year.   It now comprises 115 Ordinary Members, 34 Country Members, 57 Group Members, 32 Life Members, and 1 Student Member.   The total membership figure stands at 239, down from 242 last year.   We have more members resident in Wellington, but a drop in the number of student members, and of members residing outside the Wellington region.   Nine new members were welcomed over the course of the year, and a few people resigned for various reasons.   We wish them well.   We acknowledge the passing of two long-standing Life Members.   Dr Grace Suckling and Helen Anne Cook, who both joined the Society in the 1960s, died after long, well-lived lives, in July 2015 and March 2016 respectively.


The main field trip this year was the summer camp based at Te Kauri Lodge, Te Western Waikato, set in 1100 ha of well-tracked native bush, and close to karst landscapes, wetlands, Pirongia Forest Park, and Kawhia and Aotea harbours.   It was led by Mick Parsons with thirty-five members attending.   The field trips included Te Kauri Scenic Reserve with its orchids and lichens; king ferns in Walter Scott Scenic Reserve, (a Forest and Bird reserve); the forests of the Mahaukura Track, Mt Pirongia; kauri on the Kauri Grove Track in Te Kauri Scenic Reserve.   The day-five trip through Upper Tawarau Gorge, regarded by Ogle and Druce (1987), as the largest continuous tract of native forest on limestone topography in the North Island, provided a new set of plants, large and small.   The morning of the last day was to Marokopa Natural Tunnel Scenic Reserve.   A walk through the tunnel included the very uncommon small fern, Asplenium cimmeriorum.   The afternoon trip was to Rakanui Scenic Reserve, on the edge of Kawhia Harbour, with its limestone outcrops amongst the forest and birdlife.

Thanks to Mick Parsons, Bev Abbott, committee members, land-owners and guides who gave their time and expertise for the various trips.   The full trip report appears in the WBS Newsletter, May 2016.

There were twelve field trips around the greater Wellington area, including an Easter overnight trip to Northern Wairarapa.   Species lists were made available for all trips and updated lists were lodged with private owners and the NZ Plant Conservation Network.   Two workbees were held at Te Marua Bush.   Detailed reports of the trips appeared in the WBS newsletters and are on the web site.

Thank you to all the trip leaders and the various land owners who allowed us access.   The list of trips undertaken can be found at the end of this report.


Ten meetings were held on the third Monday of each month at VUW, Murphy Lecture Theatre MYLT101.   The average attendance was 39.3 members.   The best attendance was to hear the 2015 A.P. Druce Memorial lecture by Bill Lee - “Complex interactions with friends and foes - how native plants manage risks”, and the lowest attendance was a most interesting Members’ Evening with only twenty five present.   One Plant of the Month talk was presented by Carol West (Hebe stricta var. atkinsonii).   A detailed list of the meetings is at the end of this report.



Three newsletters were produced during the last year - September 2015, December 2015 and May 2016.   Thanks to Chris Horne for their preparation, and to Jeremy Rolfe for their formatting and production.   The newsletter is available on the web site, and is posted to members with no e-mail access, and to non-member related organisations.

Web site

The web site at is managed by Richard Herbert.   It provides information about all WBS activities and offers the public face of the Society.   Our thanks to Julia White for dealing with enquiries.


Bulletin no. 56 was published in June 2016.   Our thanks to all the contributors, to Bulletin Editor, Leon Perrie, to proof-readers Eleanor Burton and Jill Goodwin, and to Jeremy Rolfe for the formatting.

Community Outreach

WBS provided a prize and judges for the 2015 NIWA Science and Technology Fair.   See Awards section below.

The programme section of the newsletter is distributed to libraries, Citizen Advice Bureaux and to Wellington Civic Square i-Site.

Field trips, open to the public, are advertised in the Wellington Glean Report.   We provide assistance at Otari-Wilton’s Bush Open Day.


During 2015-16, the Society presented submissions to a Parliamentary Select Committee, Greater Wellington Regional Council and Territorial Local Authorities.   Bev Abbott was again co-opted on to the Committee as Submissions Coordinator.   She has spent a large amount of time researching and preparing the submissions and representing BotSoc at hearings.   Thank you Bev for all this work.   Summaries of submissions are published in our newsletters.   The submissions made this year were to:
•   Parliament’s Local Government and Environment Committee on the Draft Wellington Town Belt Bill.
•   DOC on its proposal to classify Whangaparoa Springs Reserve as a Scientific Reserve.
•   Greater Wellington Regional Council on its proposed classification of Taupo Swamp, Plimmerton.
•   Porirua City Council on its Draft Development Plan for Porirua Scenic Reserve.
•   Wellington City Council on its Draft Annual Plan 2016- 17, its District Plan Change 80, and its Draft Open Space Access Plan 2016.

•   The Jubilee Award 2015 was awarded to Kiri Cutting who is studying abiotic factors in forest restoration.
•   The Arnold and Ruth Dench New Zealand Botanical Award is no longer available.
•   The VUW School of Biological Sciences - Student Field Grant was awarded to Maren Preuss who studied the taxonomy and systematics of red algal parasites.
•   The Tom Moss Student Award in Bryology - no applicants for 2015.
•   The 2015 NIWA Science Fair Award winner was Olivia Healey, Upper Hutt College.   Topic: ‘How ecosystems affect native plants’.   Olivia spoke about her study at our meeting on 16 November 2015.

The Committee

The Committee met monthly both at people’s homes and latterly at the Cockayne Centre, Otari.   My special thanks to Barbara Clark, Secretary, and Frances Forsyth, Minutes Secretary, for keeping us up-to-date with correspondence and minutes.   Thanks also to our treasurer, Lea Robertson, who also has membership responsibilities; Sunita Singh who continues to organise an amazing selection of speakers and field trip programmes, Chris Horne whose knowledge of the botanical scene of Wellington is unsurpassed, Eleanor Burton, Richard Herbert, Vice-Presidents Owen Spearpoint and Lara Shepherd.   Their contributions to Wellington Botanical Society are legend.   Thank you all.

Other thanks and acknowledgements
•   Jeremy Rolfe for formatting the Newsletter and Bulletin.
•   Barbara and Kevin Clark who host the barbecue at the February committee meeting each year - great food at a fabulous venue.
•   Mick Parsons and his team for their work preparing and organising the Summer Camp.
•   Leon Perrie, Bulletin Editor, Jill Goodwin and Eleanor Burton, proof-readers.
•   Mail-outs of Newsletters and Bulletin: Barbara Mitcalfe (provides the venue), Sunita Singh, Jill Goodwin, Trudi Bruhlmann, Lea and Hugh Robertson, and Chris Horne.
•   All the guest speakers and members who contributed to the programmes.
•   The owners of the private properties botanised on the field trips.
•   Members who assisted with raising money for the Jubilee Award.

It has been a great experience to be your President.   Thank you all.

Karen Palmer, President.







A presentation was made before the main speaker at the following meeting:


2016/17 committee

At the 77th Annual General Meeting, held on 15 August 2016, the following were elected:



Annual Report from the Treasurer

New reporting standards came into effect on 1 April 2015, and registered charities, such as the Society, need to prepare financial statements in line with the new standards.   The new format spreads the financial information over several pages.   As in the past, accounts are viewable on the Charities Services website when they are submitted, which in our case is before the end of the 2016 calendar year.   As a Public Benefit Entity (PBE) with annual operating payments under $125,000, we use the Tier 4 not-for-profit reporting standard, and both a Performance Report containing both financial and non-financial information, and an Annual Return form will be submitted.

For the year ended 30 June 2016, the table below presents the 2015/2016 accounts in a format which differs from the way in which previous years’ accounts were presented.   For comparison with previous years, and for the audit, a Statement of Income and Expenditure and a Balance Sheet with commentary follow.   Next year the accounts in the new standard format will show the previous year’s figures allowing for direct comparison.


Slime Mould - What is it?

Slime mould

Slime mould - Mt McKerrow, Rimutaka Forest Park

An engineer’s question - Ian Goodwin

I’ve seen it in the Kaimanawa, Kaikoura and Rimutaka areas and in Ticino, Switzerland.   What is this yellow splodge?   Look again in an hour, and it will have moved!   It moves towards and “captures” its food, but it is not Animal.   It’s called Slime Mould, but is not a fungus.   At some stages in its life it has many single cells.   At another stage the cells aggregate to form a larger single cell with many nuclei.   How strange!   They do not have nerve cells, yet seem able to learn and solve problems.   Experiments in Germany have seen slime mould solving mazes, and in Japan slime moulds have managed to reproduce the map of Tokyo’s complex train network linking city and suburban stations.

So what is a slime mould?   This is too hard for an engineer.   Call in a biologist ...

The Biology of Slime Moulds

- an old biology teacher - Ianto Stevens

They are a curious group of organisms - or rather collection of groups - that were once thought to be fungi.   This was because their life cycle includes the formation of sporangia, containing spores.   If you put a slice of damp bread in a plastic box with a non-airtight lid, then leave it in a dark place, it will go mouldy.   The fungi that colonise will be true moulds rather than slime moulds and you are likely to find ones that have beautiful little black pinhead-like sporangia.   Having sporangia allowed botanists to claim slime moulds as their own.   Zoologists had perhaps a stronger claim because slime moulds move slowly but perceptibly.   This is genuine movement; they flow along and don’t just grow towards, or away from stimuli, as plants and the true fungi do.   Slime moulds are now classified along with a diversity of single-celled organisms in a group called protista which includes the famous Amoeba.

Slime mould

Beside Anatoki River, Kahurangi National Park

Amoeba proteus, the species most of us will remember from school science, can be seen moving and feeding on the internet - a good choice of still shots and videos is always available.   This species is a very large single cell, visible (just) to the naked eye.   For part of their life cycle, slime moulds consist of independently living and feeding single cells similar to Amoeba but much smaller.

Both Amoeba and slime moulds move and feed in the same way.   They have a highly flexible, physiologically active and sensitive cell-surface membrane.   This is lined internally by cytoplasmic jelly.   This gel cytoplasm can become a sol (i.e., ‘melt’) at any point on the cell surface.   The interior of the cell is at a slightly higher pressure than the surrounding, so the cytoplasm ‘squirts’ into the zone where the external jelly has become less stiff.   It thus puts out a pseudopodium to catch food, or allows the whole cell to ‘flow’ forward.

Slime moulds are found in wet habitats, e.g., rotting wood, waterlogged grassland and leaf litter, within wet soil.   Mostly, they are hidden in the substrate they occupy.   Only a few species are in any way spectacular specimens like the ones so beautifully photographed by Ian.   They feed on other microorganisms, especially bacteria, and can be cultivated in a container on material such as decomposing oatmeal.   When clumps of oatmeal are arranged to represent cities in the container, the slime mould puts out strands that detect them and then arranges its ever-flowing ‘body’ of cytoplasm to connect these feeding stations by the most economical network of interconnecting cytoplasmic strands.   One of Ian’s photos shows these cytoplasmic strands really clearly.

The species he has seen several times is probably Physarum polycephalum.   This is one of the plasmodial slime moulds, the only ones big enough to be easily seen with the naked eye.

When a Physarum spore germinates, it hatches as a tiny amoeba that feeds and divides a few times.   If fortune favours, it meets a similar and compatible Physarum amoeboid cell and they fuse - fertilisation has occurred.   The resulting zygote feeds and grows.   The nucleus divides, but not the cytoplasm.   It moves about feeding and growing until it becomes the structure Ian has observed.   It is a gigantic single cell with very many nuclei in a common cytoplasm.   When food runs out it, forms sporangia and spores with single nuclei.

A slightly more detailed account of slime mould biology, and a brief resume of why biologists are fascinated by them, with a few references, will be in the next edition of the Wellington Botanical Society Bulletin.

Ian Goodwin and Ianto Stevens


Two Te Papa blogs

Nancy Adams, Wendy Nelson and the Three Kings’ seaweeds

Pat Brownsey and the cave-dwelling spleenwort

Colin Miskelly, Curator Terrestrial Vertebrates, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa



Matt McGlone’s talk at the AGM reminded us that there are real gaps and presumed gaps - a fascinating look at the apparent absence of forty-five species of tall trees in the Taranaki region, a message that botany is not isolated from geology and all other sciences.   There is indeed a gap which reminds us of the beech gap on the Wellington Peninsula for similar reasons.   The climate and geology of a region are historically intertwined on massive scales.

However, there is a real gap on the WBS committee.   Some members have served on the committee, many of them for a long time, but many have not.   The work of the committee is a most interesting way of looking at the breadth of botanical issues in our region.   There are monthly meetings at the Leonard Cockayne Centre.   No expertise in necessary, just an abiding interest in the NZ flora.   WBS is highly respected for its input into local and regional plans and enterprises - our area.

So where is this information?   The newsletter is a mine of information and is readily available on the web site.   Contributions are always welcomed by editor, Chris Horne.   More members are always welcome to our monthly meetings and field trips.   Why not bring a friend to the wonderful world of NZ’s flora.

Karen Palmer, Immediate past-president


Seed-cleaning workbee 10 July

Anthea McClelland, a volunteer with the NZ Indigenous Flora Seed Bank*, drove from Palmerston North, where the bank is located, to Otari-Wilton’s Bush, Wellington.   She came to teach a group of eleven, including three BotSoccers, how to clean the seeds of some native plants.   This is the first step in preparing seeds for storing in the seed bank.   Anthea showed each of us how to clean the seeds in the first bag each of us chose.   Cleaning work ranged from straight-forward for some species, to time-consuming and tricky for others.   We used our fingers, plus tweezers, and sieves with various mesh sizes.   After each bag’s seeds had been freed of twigs, leaves, etc., the contents were recorded for further treatment at the seed bank.   Then each of us selected another bag with seeds of a different species.   By the end of the session, we had cleaned the seeds of thirteen species, and partially cleaned another six.

We thank Anthea for providing us with a most interesting experience learning a new botanical skill, and to WCC’s Otari-Wilton’s Bush staff for making available the conference room in Te Marae o Tane / Information Centre.

* For information on the seed bank, please refer to the article in the May 2016 newsletter, further down this page.   For further information, contact C.R.McGill (at)

Chris Horne


DOC’s recent acquisitions

Anzac Bridge

Located just north of Pukaha Mt. Bruce in the Wairarapa, is the Anzac Bridge which straddles the Makakahi River, near W A Miller Scenic Reserve.   The Anzac Bridge was accorded Category I historic place status in May 2010.

The bridge, formerly part of SH 2, had its abutments sitting on land administered by the NZ Transport Agency, however NZTA agreed in 2009 to set apart surplus land there to become a scenic reserve.   These five parcels of road comprising 8182 m² have been added to the adjoining W A Miller Scenic Reserve, which now provides a reserve link to the historic Anzac Bridge.

On the north side of the bridge, there is a small picnic area and turn-around area.   Closed highway, and private land from neighbour Robert Cresswell, have been acquired to form the North Anzac Bridge Scenic Reserve.

These reserve additions are managed by DOC from the Masterton Office, in association with the Friends of Anzac Bridge.

Ratanui land added to Percy Scenic Reserve, Petone

Approximately 3ha of land alongside SH 2 in Lower Hutt, once held by the NZ Transport Agency, were acquired by DOC as a Public Works Act transfer, and made a scenic reserve.   One parcel comprises the site of the homestead which belonged to Sir James Hector, while other parcels form a vegetated buffer alongside SH2.   This reserve has been vested in Hutt City Council, which it manages in conjunction with Percy Scenic Reserve.

David Bishop, Senior Advisor (SLM), Department of Conservation, PO Box 10-420, Wellington


eFlora with photos and maps

The eFlora is the dynamic, continually updated, electronically-based Flora for New Zealand.   The old NZ flora printed-paper books still have their place, but slowly the diagnostic photos, distribution maps and updated keys in the eFlora will see us reach for a tablet, not a book.   The “fascicles” are available online at:   Each fascicle is “published” as a pdf file and can be fully referenced.   Here is an example of a citation:

Brownsey, P.J. & Perrie, L.R. 2016: Thelypteridaceae.   In: Breitwieser, I.; Wilton, A.D.   Flora of New Zealand - Ferns and Lycophytes.   Fascicle 16.   Manaaki Whenua Press, Lincoln.

Twenty-eight moss families are published and sixteen fern families.   Seed plants are limited to the two small families of Hypericaceae and Centrolepidaceae.   This week two new treatments were published - a treatment for Thelypterideaceae by Pat Brownsey and Leon Perrie, and Nothofagaceae by Kerry Ford, Peter Heenan and Rob Smissen.   If you find printed paper easier to read, then you can print them out and compile a folder of fascicles.

Source: Canterbury Botanical Society newsletter September 2016.


NIWA Wellington Science and Technology Fair.   Botany Award

The winner of the Botanical Society award of $150 for an entry related to native plants at the 2016 NIWA Wellington Science and Technology Fair was Isabel Riseley of Wadestown School.   Her project was entitled “Fractals in Foliage” (You can google “fractals” - they are repeating patterns).   Using a microscope she measured the number of fractals on leaves of several native trees and hen and chicken fern, asking the question “Do larger leaves have more fractals” The answer was a tentative yes.

Rodney Lewington


Otari-Wilton’s Bush

Kia ora koutou.

It’s been a busy time at Otari recently, with planting, path changes and construction work in the gardens.   Below the Cockayne Lookout we have finished a new boardwalk through the wetland garden, and hope to have interpretive signs there before the end of the year.   We have been working on a new lower entrance to the Fernery, removing a steep (and slippery) asphalt path, and will add some sculptural elements to that entrance before Open Day.

Open Day will be on Saturday 24 September.   The plant sale will begin at 10 a.m., followed by walks led by our volunteer guides, a talk about bees in the Leonard Cockayne Centre, and an open science lab in the Information Centre.   The open science lab is a chance for people to get close to plants and other organisms under the microscope.   There will be knowledgeable people running the lab to help visitors, talk about what they are looking at under microscopes, and pass on knowledge about the plants, insects and other organisms they have on show.

Our GIS team has recently completed a piece of work that allows great online access to our plant collections.   You can link to our new Otari StoryMap on the Visitor Services page on the Otari web page on the Wellington City Council web site.   Once in the StoryMap, you can scroll down the side panel to explore the Garden.   Map links can be clicked or tapped to focus on specific points of interest in the map.   The last page details the plant collections.   No garden details or images have been added yet, but you can click the links on the left side panel that lead you to a pdf list of plants in each garden.   It’s not a complete picture - there is still some information to add.   You can’t search for a plant on the web site unfortunately, but you can perform a ctrl-F search on the pdf.   Press ctrl-F once you have a pdf plant list open, then type the plant you want in the search box that appears.   This allows much greater public access to what we have in our gardens than was previously available.

Karin Van der Walt, our Conservation and Science Advisor, has been getting up to speed with our flora and its conservation requirements, since arriving from South Africa a few months ago.   Next week Karin, and Finn, our Curator, are travelling to Whanganui with DOC staff to help to restore to the region, Pimelea actea, a Nationally Critical endangered plant.   This is just one of the endangered plants we hope to be working with over the coming years.

Rewi Elliot, Team Manager, Otari Native Botanic Garden and Wilton’s Bush Reserve, Email: rewi.elliot (at)


May 2016 News

From the President

The first five months of 2016 have passed quickly.   Summer has gone into autumn - cooler but beautiful light and leaves.   Summer Camp 2016 was a great success - our thanks go to Mick Parsons and his team.   We are planning for Summer Camp, 11-17 January 2017, based at The Outpost, Mangarakau Swamp, northwest Nelson.   The prospects are fascinating botanically.

However, there has been a disappointing response to the overnight field trips - some were cancelled.   Of course, there are many reasons why each of us cannot or do not leave home to botanise and socialise overnight.   Should these longer trips continue?   Please let us know your thoughts.   Weekends, precious for many of us with family and friends, compete with every other activity available, and for many they are work times.

This newsletter contains some of the Committee’s “behind the scenes” activities.   The contributions made by Bev Abbott on behalf of BotSoc are very important for the future of biodiversity and protection of botanically important areas in the Wellington region.   Present submissions are on Wellington City Council’s Annual Plan 2016/17, and affect us all.   There is also controversy about the future management of Taupo Swamp, Plimmerton, that is being addressed on BotSoc’s behalf.

Karen Palmer



The status of Taupo Swamp

I reported in the December 2014 newsletter, that the attention given to wetlands was one of the pleasing aspects of Greater Wellington’s Draft Natural Resources Plan (DNRP).   The DNRP proposed a three-tier hierarchical classification of wetlands.   ‘Outstanding’ wetlands as a subset of ‘significant’ wetlands, which, in turn, are a subset of ‘natural’ wetlands.   At that stage of the process, only three wetlands were ‘outstanding’.   The number had grown to 14 by the time the Proposed Natural Resources Management Plan was released for public consultation.   Somewhat surprisingly, Taupo Swamp was not among them.   It’s the 30-ha wetland adjacent to SH1, just north of Plimmerton.   It’s owned by the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust (QEII Trust).   GW classified it as ‘significant’, along with about 200 other wetlands throughout the greater Wellington region.   While many wetlands are at risk from activities such as cattle grazing in the wetland, many of the risks to the values of Taupo Swamp are associated with activities in the surrounding catchment, e.g., run-off from SH1, and the future subdivision of farmland for housing.

The QEII Trust lodged a submission saying that the indigenous biodiversity values of Taupo Swamp are such that it should be upgraded to ‘outstanding’.   We have lodged a Further Submission supporting this position.   We were able to participate in this process because we meet the criteria in the RM Act for making Further Submissions, i.e., we represent a relevant aspect of the public interest and have an interest that is greater than that of the general public.

We also submitted that the historic values of Taupo Swamp are such that it should be listed on the Schedule of Historic Heritage Freshwater Sites.   Its historic heritage values include its use by early Maori occupying the pa at the month of Taupo Stream, commercial flax production when attempts to drain the swamp failed, and the visit by the Queen to see the work of the Trust which was renamed in her honour to celebrate her Silver Jubilee.

Two useful, if somewhat dated, references about the Taupo Swamp are:
•   Bagnall, RG and Ogle, CC.   The changing vegetation structure and composition of a lowland mire at Plimmerton, North Island, NZ.   NZ Journal of Botany.   (1981).
•   Moar, NT.   A study of some mires in the South West Wellington Province.   Victoria University.   Unpublished thesis.   (1949).

Wellington City Council’s Annual Plan 2016/17

Earlier this year, WCC asked for ideas before preparing its consultation document on its Annual Plan 2016/17.   We asked for increased funding for implementation of Our Natural Capital (the Biodiversity Action Plan), and encouraged Council to initiate three projects from plans they had already approved.
•   a revised Pest Management Implementation Plan, and the review of the Pest Management Programme (Project 1.3.1(a) from Our Natural Capital)
•   a long-term Forest Management Plan for Otari-Wilton’s Bush in conjunction with Greater Wellington.   (Project 5.4.3 from the Botanic Gardens of Wellington Management Plan 2014)
•   identification of the ecologically important areas on the Town Belt (Project 5.2 in the Town Belt Management Plan 2013).

When Council released its Consultation Document on the Annual Plan, we were disappointed to learn that only $202,000 (operational funding) has been allocated in 2016/17 for projects from Our Natural Capital.   We had been hoping for $320,000, i.e., 10% of the $3.2 million allocated in the 10- year Long-Term Plan 2015-25.   We made this point in our submission on the Annual Plan.

Bev Abbott, Submissions Coordinator


Tom Moss Student Award in Bryology - Applications sought

Tom Moss was an active member of Wellington Botanical Society for many years, and was a participant in the very first John Child Bryophyte Workshop in 1983.

To commemorate his name, his contribution to New Zealand botany, and his particular interest in bryology, a Trust Fund was established following discussion at the 2006 John Child Bryophyte Workshop.   It is administered by Wellington Botanical Society.   The Tom Moss Student Award in Bryology provides a small annual prize for the best student contribution to NZ bryology.   The 2016 Award will be made at the John Child Bryophyte Workshop to be held in November on Stewart Island.   Contributions that would qualify for the Award include:
•   A student presentation at the Workshop relating to NZ bryology.
•   A paper relating to NZ bryology.

Only one application per student will be accepted (i.e., either a presentation or a publication).   The paper can be published, or accepted for publication, or a significant unpublished report.   This should be published or written in the twelve months immediately before the Workshop, and submitted for judging by 25 October 2016 (see below).   It is not necessary to attend the workshop where a paper is submitted for consideration.

Contributions are invited and will be considered from any student enrolled for a B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D., or equivalent degree in the twelve months immediately before the Workshop.   Students may be enrolled in a NZ or overseas university, and may include work on overseas bryophytes, as long as the work relates in some significant way to NZ bryology.

An Award of $400 will be made by a panel of three judges attending the Workshop and appointed by Wellington Botanical Society.   The panel may reserve the right to make no award if there are no suitable contributions.

Publications for consideration should be submitted with a covering letter by 25 October 2016 to: Tom Moss Student Award, Wellington Botanical Society, PO Box 10 412, WN 6143.

Students intending to make a qualifying presentation at the Workshop should indicate this when they enrol for the Workshop.

Further information about the Award may be obtained from Dr Patrick Brownsey, Te Papa, P.O. Box 467, WN.   Ph: 04 381 7135; e-mail: patb (at)


Plant etymology blogs

The ‘You called me WHAT?!’ Te Papa blog with the Veronica thomsonii image is now live at Allan Thomson and the Cenozoic brachiopods.

The next blog in the series (on W.R.B. Oliver) will also feature an NZPCN image - due to be published on 2 May.

You may be aware that the first two species that we sought suggestions for names for were a fern and a forgetme-not:
•   Help name a new species
•   Unforgettable names for a new forget-me-notspecies

Colin Miskelly, Curator Terrestrial Vertebrates, Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa


Protecting NZ’s Indigenous Plant Biodiversity though Seed Conservation and Research

New Zealand’s in situ conservation is being supported by a range of ex situ conservation activities with the aim of reversing the continuing decline in the health and diversity of indigenous flora and fauna populations across New Zealand.   One such ex situ conservation activity is a project to collect, research and bank seed of NZ’s indigenous flora.   A seed bank is an effective ex situ method of conservation in support of in situ conservation, as seed of many species remains viable at low temperature (-18°C) for decades in seed-bank storage.   A wider aim of the project is to increase NZers awareness of why conservation and preservation of indigenous species matter locally, nationally and globally, and what they can do to help.

Jess collecting Celmisia armstrongii
Jess collecting Celmisia armstrongii near the summit of Mueller Hut track, Mt Cook / Aoraki National Park.

The project is funded though Massey University’s Strategic Innovation Fund and the NZ Lottery Grants Board.   The George Mason Charitable Trust has also provided funding for the purchase of equipment.   The project is being led from Massey University in collaboration with DOC, AgResearch, Landcare Research, the NZ Plant Conservation Network and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Wakehurst Place, West Sussex).   The project is part of the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership.   This is the largest ex situ conservation programme in the world with a network that covers 80 countries.

A key part of the project has been training collectors throughout the country to equip them with the skills needed to collect seed.   This seed is then sent to the physical seed bank in Palmerston North.   To date over one hundred collectors have been trained.   There are now trained collectors from the Catlins to North Auckland.

Once the seed reaches Palmerston North, a dedicated group of volunteers extract, clean and dry the seed in preparation for banking.   Before banking, a small portion of the seed is x-rayed to ensure the seed is full and free from pests.

Many species, particularly those of tropical origin, produce seed that cannot be desiccated to the low moisture contents (5-7%) needed for banking.   Although several desiccation-sensitive species have been identified (kohekohe, nikau, kahikatea, tawa and maire) the number of NZ plant species that produce seed sensitive to desiccation is unknown.   Research is needed to determine which seed can be desiccated without loss of viability.   For seed that is sensitive to desiccation, protocols for storing that seed will be needed.   Research into seed-storage behaviour, and the factors that affect the life-span of seed in storage, are an integral part of the project.

The process of seed collecting and banking is managed through a series of protocols.   Having obtained appropriate collecting permissions, trained collectors collect seed and herbarium samples in the field, with limits on the quantity of seed that can be collected from any site.   Collections are sent to Massey University (Palmerston North) for initial processing and assessment of seed quality.   Seed is dried to a moisture level in equilibrium with a relative humidity of 15%, then placed in storage at -18°C at the Margot Forde Germplasm Centre (AgResearch).   A duplicate accession will be held by one of the four main botanic gardens (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin).   The herbarium specimens are catalogued and stored in the Dame Ella Campbell Herbarium (Massey University, Palmerston North) with duplicates sent to the Allan Herbarium, Landcare Research (Christchurch).   The herbarium specimens provide the link between the seed in store, and the plants in the field from which the seed was collected.   The specimens are used to ensure that the seed collected is correctly identified to species and to facilitate any subsequent research.

Rewi Elliot collecting <i>Veronica</i> seed

Rewi Elliot collecting Veronica seed at Titahi Bay.

Seed can only be removed from the bank for a limited range of purposes, such as reintroduction of species where populations have been lost in the wild, or for research projects that will help with the conservation of the species.   Seed may also be used for multiplication to replenish seed in the seed bank.   All withdrawals from the seed bank must be approved by the project steering group which comprises representatives from Massey University, AgResearch, DOC, Landcare Research and the NZ Plant Conservation Network.

Species that will be collected include both threatened and non-threatened species.   Threatened species clearly have an immediate conservation need, but the threats that any species may face in the future are unknown, therefore banking seed of all species is a good insurance policy.   While the aim is to collect seed of all NZ’s flowering indigenous flora, four species’ groups have been identified as immediate priorities, the Myrtaceae, the alpine flora, in particular the forget-me-nots, the Fabaceae and podocarps / trees of the forest.   Since October 2013 94 species (31 listed as Threatened or At Risk) have been collected (including 48 new species thus far in 2016).   Seeds and herbarium specimens have been collected from areas as diverse as the Waitakere and Hunua ranges, Kahurangi National Park, Bushy Park Sanctuary, Titahi Bay, Cape Palliser, Mount Arthur, Old Man Range and Enderby Island.

Anyone interested in becoming an active collector for the NZ Indigenous Flora Seed Bank will need to undertake collector training.   For further information on training please contact Mrs Jessica Schnell on (06)951 6236 or J.L.Schnell (at)   Any other enquiries on the project can be directed to the project leader, Mr Craig McGill on (06) 9517803 or C.R.Mcgill (at)


Old man’s beard - Wellington sightings

We all know that Wellington is a weedy city, but how weedy is it?   A project on Nature Watch can answer that question, using the vine, Clematis vitalba / old man’s beard (OMB) as an indicator pest plant.

Old Mans Beard

OMB is easy to identify from a distance, or close up.   It is particularly obvious at this time of year, when it flowers profusely.   The creamy-white flowers are 2-3cm in diameter; the leaves have five leaflets; the stems are very long, six-angled, strongly ribbed, with light coloured bark that rubs off easily.

The project, “Wellington: Old man’s beard sightings”, was set up by Illona Keenan, WCC Parks and Reserves.   The Nature Watch site features a map which shows a rash of pins in Northland, Highbury, Kelburn and down into Thorndon.   I have entered 425 sightings to date, with more to follow.   The block I am trying to survey is Messines Rd, Karori to the Motorway, and Te Aro to Hill Street.

The rest of the city is a blank.   Help me to fill it in!   I walk the dog, noting the plants I see, then put the sighting on Nature Watch.   It is publicly available information in a graphic form.   Just what we need when writing submissions.

The OMB project is for one species only: Clematis vitalba.   Other pest plants sightings can be made in NZ Pest Plants project, also on Nature Watch.

Gordon Sommerville


Baring Head

Great news!!   The good folks at DOC have agreed to us diverting some of the Community Conservation Fund grant we were awarded in 2014 to fence off some very precious cushion-fields on the Fitzroy Bay foreshore.   (See December newsletter for detailed information).   This work will be done over the next few months.   Once completed, we can start hand-weeding woody exotics such as tree lupin / Lupinus arboreus, which will thrive once the grazing pressure is removed.   This could be a nice little project for BotSoc (hint, hint!).

Unfortunately, spraying of cape pondweed / Aponogeton distachyos in the river-flat oxbows has been deferred for the third consecutive year.   A combination of resource consent issues and dry summers frustrated our plans.   However, now that the fence is finished, and stock excluded, we will start planting around the margins of several of them, once conditions get wet enough.   We hope to get some 4,000 plants in the ground this winter, so again any help you can provide would be welcomed.   If you are interested call me on 478 4301 or e-mail me at rydercj (at)

Carrying on from this plea, we will be organising a workbee a month so there will be plenty of opportunities for “exercise with a purpose” - my excuse to my wife for heading out to Baring Head.   (I have to admit it hasn’t worked yet).

Some more lines of Timms traps have been installed in the grazed areas since the last newsletter.   We’re catching many possums.   The traps will be complemented soon by a network of bait-stations targeting possums and rodents in the ungrazed areas, plus intensive predator-control protecting several lizard “hotspots.”

The grant funding will last until July 2017, so we’ve suggested to Greater Wellington Regional Council that we start thinking about what happens after that.   The Biodiversity Action Plan envisaged expenditure of a tad over $115,000 during the following three years, mainly on weeding and planting.   While these costs will need review in light of experience, I anticipate some interesting discussions about who pays for what.

The only other major biodiversity project we can anticipate at Baring Head is fencing-off the coastal escarpment.   This is not included in the Plan, and has not been costed, but we would probably looking at a cost north of $50,000.   This will on the table for discussion.

So, there’s a lot going on.   Besides this biodiversity work, we’re not far off trying to raise the resources to restore the lighthouse compound (got a spare million, anyone?), and developing and implementing an interpretation strategy.   There are some other ideas involving projects a bit further afield, but still within our constitutional aegis, which are being progressed.   I hope to be able to report on them if and when they get progressed.

Colin Ryder, Treasurer, Friends of Baring Head


Discovery of a Nationally Critical species

A Wairarapa farmer’s tentative enquiry about covenanting a small bush remnant resulted in the discovery of a population of Olearia gardneri (Gardner’s tree daisy), one of NZ’s rarest plants.

QEII National Trust’s local representative, Trevor Thompson, found the plants while assessing the site’s suitability for covenanting.   Previously the number of plants in the wild was estimated at 160, scattered in small isolated populations, mostly around Taihape, and a few isolated plants in the Wairarapa.   Those statistics made Olearia gardneri about as rare as our critically endangered kakapo.

Mr Thompson has since counted 374 specimens at the site and, unlike some populations elsewhere that contain only adults, he has found plants of all ages and sizes.   The discovery may lower its threat status from Threatened: Nationally Critical to Threatened: Nationally Endangered.

Landowner, Jane McKay, has her son, Tom, to thank for the discovery.   They had talked about protecting the bush, but she felt shy about it as she wasn’t sure it would meet covenanting criteria.   Tom was keen though, so they asked Trevor to investigate.   Tom felt inspired to protect the bush after talking to his friend whose parents had covenanted bush on their farm.   He thought they should do the same with their bush.   Ms McKay is thrilled to have such a rare plant on the farm and is determined to protect it and support its recovery.   A management plan has been developed to enhance the current population, introduce plants to other tiny populations in Wairarapa, and set up new populations in other suitable covenanted sites.

Local Forest and Bird members weed the site, and collect seeds and cuttings for Norfolk Road Native Nursery to grow for the plant’s recovery programme.   Already 200 plants are ready for planting in this autumn.

Because of the site’s importance, Greater Wellington Regional Council has supported covenanting costs with a higher than normal funding allocation to help with fencing the site, and old man’s beard control.

Mr Thompson said the discovery is a highlight of his career.   ‘The site didn’t look special from a distance, so finding the population was completely unexpected.   It drives home the fact that landowners should never feel shy about proposing covenants.   ‘Sometimes they might think the bit of bush at the back of the farm is nothing special, but it just goes to show that you never know what taonga it might be sheltering,’ he said.

Olearia gardneri, a member of the tree-daisy family, is endemic to the North Island.   Pollinated by insects, its seeds have a dandelion-like parachute that helps them travel on the wind.   Fortunately, it is not particularly palatable to grazing animals.   Olearia gardneri may have had a pivotal role in helping to heal land slips, being replaced by larger forest trees over time.   It is deciduous.   May is the best time to spot it, because its yellowing leaves stand out.   It supports at least nine moth species, five of which are treedaisy specialists (source DOC).

Adapted from QEII National Trust 28.2.2016 news release, prepared by Anne McLean.


Dr Andrew McEwen

We congratulate Andrew who was appointed to the NZ Order of Merit (ONZM) in the New Year’s Honours, for his services to forestry.

Karen Palmer, President Wellington Botanical Society


Bulletins - back-issues

Expand your collection of our “flagship” publication and boost BotSoc’s bank balance!

Limited numbers of copies of the following back issues are available:
•   1950s: no. 23 (9/50), no. 30 (12/58).
•   1960s: no. 32 (12/61), no. 33 (2/66), no. 34 (11/67), no. 35 (10/68), no. 36 (12/69).
•   Index to Bulletins nos. 1-35.
•   1970s: no. 37 (11/71), no. 38 (9/74), no. 39 (10/76), no. 40 (8/78).
•   1980s: no. 41 (9/81), no. 42 (9/85), no. 43 (4/87), no. 44 (11/88), no. 45 (11/89).
•   1990s: no. 46 (12/94), no. 47 (9/96).
•   2000s: no. 48 (9/02), no. 49 (12/05).

Cost $4 per issue, incl. p&p; $12 for any five issues incl. p&p.

Copies of more recent Bulletins, no. 50 (3/07), no. 51 (11/08), no. 52 (4/10), no. 53 (6/11), no. 54 (11/12) and no. 55 (11/14) are $11 each incl. p&p, to members and other individuals, and $21 each incl. p&p, to organisations, posted within NZ.

Contact Chris Horne to confirm availability: Email jchorne (at), phone 04 475 7025.

Please make your cheque payable to Wellington Botanical Society, PO Box 10 412, Wellington 6143.   Thank you!

Lea Robertson, Treasurer


National Pest Control Agencies

In 2014, the NPCA published information on nineteen vertebrate-pest species, and now seeks information and images for eleven more species.   The Clues section of the web site ( covers potential field sign, e.g.:
•   Droppings
•   Footprints and tracks, including trails, nests, burrows and dens
•   Vegetation damage, including to overall foliage, leaves, fruit, flowers, bark and roots
•   Kill sign, including corpses of vertebrates and invertebrates, vestiges such as feathers, fur, bones, and exoskeletons, and damaged / predated eggs.
•   Other field clues relating to the pest species, including smell, fur, hair, sound, eye shine and distribution in NZ.

We will need to know any conditions of use that might apply, particularly to images, such as acknowledgement requirements, copyrights, and copyright fees.   NPCA seeks to keep costs down, so if material can be supplied free of charge that would greatly assist.

Shona McCahon, for Pest Detective, E-mail: info (at); Phone: 027 413 2930, c/- National Pest Control Agencies (NPCA), PO Box 11-461, WN 6142,


Devastating disease affecting Hawaiian forest trees

Metrosideros polymorpha is the dominant tree, and foundation, of native Hawaiian forests.   Sadly, over the past 2-3 years, a new fungal disease, a Ceratocystis species, has spread rapidly across the Island of Hawaii, where it has killed trees over much of their range.   Learn more about the spread of the disease at:

Lyon Arboretum is storing Metrosideros seeds in its seed bank.   Please consider supporting this important initiative.   Learn more about it at:


Edible native plants

There are at least 190 species of edible native plants in NZ, and many toxic ones, according to Wayne O’Keefe, QEII Trust representative, Western Bay of Plenty.   As a boy growing up in the UK, it was drummed into him never to eat wild foods.   Except for blackberries, all berries were poisonous.   Eating mushrooms could lead to a somewhat psychedelic death, and even just touching dandelion milk would make one pee the bed!   As an adult, he now knows that this was mostly folklore, with a dash of fear and ignorance thrown in for good measure.

Horopito / <i>Pseudowintera colorata</i>

Horopito / Pseudowintera colorata.   Photo: Jeremy Rolfe.

Upon moving to NZ and starting a family, he was determined to make sure his daughters would grow up knowing what bush foods they could eat, and conversely, which ones could kill them!   Their education started when they became old enough to identify common bush plants such as kawakawa in his Open Space Covenant.   The orange, peppery berries of kawakawa are delicious and very popular with his eldest daughter when she was still a toddler.   He will never forget once during a bush walk on his property how she got irate with a kereru for stealing ‘her’ berries.   The education continues to this day and both daughters are developing a knowledge of bush plants that could potentially save their lives one day, if they ever found themselves in a survival situation.

When early Maori settled Aotearoa, there must have been so much to learn about which bush foods could be eaten, and which ones to avoid.   Tutu / Coriaria arborea and its close relatives are well known to farmers and beekeepers.   Tutu contains the toxin tutin, and if consumed in sufficient quantities, will likely lead to a painful demise.   The only part of the plant that is not toxic is the fleshy berry - the tiny seed inside the berry holds the toxin.   Tutu juice was once a popular tonic, mixed with bull-kelp to make a jelly.   It required painstaking processing to ensure every seed was removed.   It must have taken lots of trial and error to realise this.   Karaka-berry kernels are very toxic, and required substantial processing to remove the toxin before the kernel mash could be eaten.

Horopito / Pseudowintera colorata, a small tree, occurs throughout much of NZ, usually at altitude.   It is also known as pepper tree as the leaves are so peppery.   His introduction to horopito was provided by a supposedly good friend who told him it was fruit-salad plant, named because of the fruity-tasting leaves.   Wayne should have known by the grin on his friend’s face that this was not correct, and the taste was not at all what he was expecting - the strong pepper taste lingered for some minutes.   His favourite way to use horopito is as a marinade for fish or meat.

kotukutuku / <i>Fuchsia excorticata</i>

Konini, the fruit of kotukutuku / Fuchsia excorticata.
Photo: Jeremy Rolfe.

Flat-white anyone?   Karamu / Coprosma robusta, is a common small tree in regenerating forest.   The female trees produce masses of orange berries in late summer to early autumn.   The genus Coprosma is in the Rubiaceae family, which includes the plant which produces coffee beans.   Early European settlers processed karamu seeds to make a coffee substitute.   It took a Wayne and a friend ages to strip, roast and grind the seeds.   The resulting ‘coffee’ drink was interesting, but probably not worth the effort.   All berries from the Coprosma genus are edible.

One of his favourite native berries is konini, borne on kotukutuku / Fuchsia excorticata.   This NZ endemic species is the world’s tallest fuchsia.   The colourful flowers give way to purple, juicy berries in summer / autumn.   Traditionally they were made into a juice.   They are popular with bellbirds / korimako and tui, so if planted in the garden, they attract these birds.   Other edible native tree berries include tawa, miro and kahikatea.

For use as greens, the koru, or unfurling young fronds, of many fern species may be harvested and cooked.   Wayne has tried some and, if treated the same way as asparagus, with a dollop of butter on top, they are not too bad.   Note: some species of fern are now known to be carcinogenic.

Some plant nurseries and garden centres sell species of native plants suitable for growing as vegetables.   Wayne has NZ spinach / Tetragonia tetragonioides in his garden, a valuable source of greens in winter, packed with vitamins A and C.   The older leaves can be bitter, but the growing tips are tasty.   NZ celery / Apium prostratum, is nutritious and tasty in a salad or soup, and can thrive in a garden.   Scurvy grass / Lepidium oleraceum, high in vitamin C, is another edible plant, named because it was fed to Captain Cook’s crew to stave off scurvy.   It is now rare in the wild owing to habitat loss and browsing.

As with eating anything that hasn’t come from a supermarket, if you don’t know it, do not eat it!   There are also sustainability concerns about improper harvesting of plants in the wild.   Harvesting of any plant material is not allowed on public conservation land without a permit.

Adapted from an article by Wayne O’Keefe in Open Space.   90 3/16, published by QEII National Trust.


Go to Earlier News 2014-15.


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