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Trip Report - Johnston Hill Reserve, Karori

Trip Report – 7 May 2011:   Otari – Johnston Hill Reserve, Karori

In light drizzle, we met at the entrance to Otari, next to the Wilton Bowling Club.   Right from the start, Rodney’s knowledge of Otari’s history was a valuable contribution to the day.   Published in 2010, his booklet, Path and other location names used in the Otari Open-Air Native Plant Museum 1926 - 1965, with its accompanying map, has a wealth of information.

Just inside the boundary we passed Cabbage Tree Lawn, the former lime-works site where seashells carted from Thorndon beach were burnt to produce lime for fertiliser.   Next we made a brief stop at the site of the Wilton family’s one-time fish pond, and nearby admired a recent addition to Otari’s track amenity, the handsome timber seat donated by BotSoccers “AP and HP”.

Down at the waterfall of the un-named creek, described on an early map as “A” Creek, we discussed Elatostema rugosum, parataniwha, a russet-toned, un-armed member of the Urticaceae (nettle) family, planted there many years ago and thriving in the moist ambience.   Its natural range does not extend south of northern Horowhenua.   Shortly we inspected trackside patches of another indigenous, un-armed member of Urticaceae, Australina pusilla, and recorded our only addition to the day’s list, Loxogramme dictyopteris (Anarthropteris lanceolata), on the Circular Track.

Kohekohe.   Photo: Rodney Lewington.
After scroggin at the Troup Picnic Area lawn, we climbed steadily on an old track through kohekohe forest which was just beginning to display its pendulous stems of creamy, cauliferous flowers.

Scarlet rata, Metrosideros fulgens, was also an occasional highlight here.   The next stop was to look at Otari’s only specimen of Nestegis montana, narrow-leaved maire, an adult tree a few metres off the track.   Uncommon in Wellington, its dark green, slightly glossy leaves are very similar to black maire leaves but are much shorter and narrower.   We lunched to the accompaniment of tui and kakariki song, then continued climbing, noting a lowering canopy of native species and an increasing weed presence, mostly Darwin’s barberry, Berberis darwinii, until we reached the stile separating Otari Reserve proper, from the Outer Green Belt.   The sun had appeared, so we stopped to admire a panoramic view of the city and harbour, then turned and sidled south along the newly completed Kohekohe Track, through approximately 50-50 native-adventive vegetation recovering well from track construction.   A short stretch of pine forest led us down to a zig-zag where trackside ferns were prolific, offering good teaching material, then it was only minutes to the cemetery where we made the acquaintance of the bronze statue of Mrs Chippy, the cat, on the grave of Harry McNeish, the ship’s carpenter on the Shackleton’s Endurance.   Ten more minutes and we were at the cafe on Karori Road.

Participants :   Sam Buckley, Ken and Julia Fraser, Chris Horne (Co-leader), Rodney Lewington, Barbara Mitcalfe (Co-leader / scribe), Sheena and Stuart Hudson.

Trip Report – 2 July 2011:   Johnston Hill Reserve, Karori

Map: Topo50-BQ31 Wellington.

On the coldest day of the year, with frost on the ground, we assembled at the start of Standen St and walked through Karori Cemetery to the start of the track into Johnston Hill Reserve.   For a change, instead of the usual practice of supplying a plant list resulting from an earlier recce of the site, we gave each person a “pro-forma”, plant-recording sheet to fill in as they botanised.   On the sheet were the usual headings such as Podocarps ... Sedges ... Orchids, etc., with spaces underneath for listing the various species seen.

We proceeded for c. 300 metres through second-growth, mixed indigenous and adventive forest which took about an hour, noting the beneficial effects of ten years of possum control, evident in the density of the mostly indigenous understorey.   Then we re-grouped and invited members to say what species they had listed, and which category they had put them into, thus compiling a draft list of all plants seen by the whole group.   Later, shivering under pines as we ate our half-frozen sandwiches, we recalled “the old days” when we would certainly have boiled the billy.   More pines, then briskly we climbed to scrub-covered Johnston Hill summit via a farm track, enjoying a 360 degree view over Terawhiti, the North Makara Stream catchment, a glimpse of Te Wai Pounamu / South Island, the city, its surrounding ranges, and the harbour.   We then descended via the track to Hauraki St, through shrublands and mature indigenous forest including several gnarled old goblin mahoe.   Hot drinks in a Karori cafe were a fitting finale to a good day’s botanising.

Participants :   Gavin Dench, Chris Horne (co-leader), Rodney Lewington, Pat McLean, Barbara Mitcalfe (co-leader), Chris Moore, Sunita Singh, Darea Sherratt, Julia Stace.


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