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Trip Report – Arthur’s Pass National Park Summer Camp

Trip Report – 18.1.2014 – 27.1.2014 :   Te Urewera National Park; Whirinaki Forest Park Summer Camp

We thank Mick Parsons, trip leader, collection permits and accounts, Sunita Singh, accommodation organiser, Sheelagh Leary, menu organiser, Jenni Tahuta-Moses, of Rongoa Solutions, for her talk on rongoa, Lisa Waiwai and colleagues for dinners at Camp Kaitawa, Atamira Tumarae, DOC Aniwaniwa, for offering to add Tuhoe names to our plant lists, Rodney Lewington, accounts advice, Graeme Jane and Gail Donaghy for plant lists, David Wills, DOC Murupara, for a bat-monitoring session, Minginui Transfer Station for accepting our recyclables, Minginui Community Garden for accepting our compostables, and Hughie, the weather deity who did us proud.

Camp Kaitawa, with its commodious common room, fine kitchen, and variety of accommodation, was ideal.   Likewise, Whirinaki Recreation Camp, with its large, covered kitchen / common room, and variety of accommodation, was ideal, and the dawn chorus impressive.   Both camps are close to tracks in impressive forests.

Day 1 – 18.1.14: Panekire Bluff

We were on the track by 8:30, a tribute Mick Parsons’ organisation and our enthusiasm.   It was cold and breezy from the south, so we needed parkas and hats on – one whimp suggesting balaclavas.

The track began just above Lake Waikaremoana (582m), with scruffy modified vegetation, but soon we were into forest with mature beech.   Beeches with new names (Fuscospora and Lophozonia) took some learning – some complained, but others saw it as a challenge.

The forest contained a mix of rimu, totara and miro.   Graeme Jane mentioned miro’s demographic characteristic: many seedlings, a few large mature trees, and not many between.   Why, we wondered – maybe long life and high juvenile attrition.   New to Wellingtonians: Ixerba brexioides / tawari, and Quintinia serrata / tawheowheo with wavy-margined leaves and occasional yellow-red leaves.   Some areas had a limited understorey, the result of quite heavy deer browsing – “they eat all the tasty stuff”.

Microsorum novae-zelandiae
Microsorum novae-zelandiae.   Photo: Jeremy Rolfe.

We saw a beautiful large bunch of the mistletoe, Peraxilla colensoi, in full bloom, without the protection of the usual aluminium bands.   We later learned that an easy way to locate mistletoe is to look for DOC’s purple triangles on tree trunks.

The track ascended steadily to Panekire Bluff, with occasional cliff-top pop-out spots for magnificent views of the lake.   The weather had improved, so we returned parkas, hats and balaclavas to our packs.   We met many walkers, trampers, guided groups, and a school tramping party.

Some people turned back before Panekire Bluff, some at or soon afterwards, or at Pukenui (1181m), and a small group, enjoying the new track’s easier grade, went to Bald Knob (1161m), and two reached Panekire Hut (1180m), normally five hours one way.

On the way back we studied a large overhanging rock with graffiti engraved in the 1880s by soldiers at the nearby constabulary redoubt.   In the bush the remains of the redoubt’s rock walls were still visible.

Highlights included: big, old, Ixerba brexioides in flower, Celmisia spectabilis in full bloom, Mida salicifolia, Microsorum novae-zealandiae, with its uniform, finer, frond than M. pustulatum, little “alpine gardens” around Bald Knob, Myosotis venosa, Oxalis magellanica and Viola filicaulis, all with white flowers, and flowering Carmichaelia – pinky-purple, over the edge from Bald Knob.   Other features were Prince of Wales feathers’ / Leptopteris superba, with large full crowns, mountain cabbage tree / toi / Cordyline indivisa, with its very broad leaves, many kereru at dusk, all flying in one direction, a grey warbler / riroriro seen feeding a cuckoo in the nest, and overhearing a series of “possum-in-tent” anecdotes.

Jill Goodwin

Day 2 – 19.1.14: Lake Waikareiti & Puna Hokoi


This was our second day into the forest of Waikaremoana – a slow botanising walk from the Aniwaniwa Bridge to Lake Waikareiti, with many of the party going on to Puna Hokoi wetland.   In the evening we had a talk from Jenni Moses describing the project she was leading to record and practise Tuhoe traditional medicine – rongoa.

The day’s walk and the evening talk complemented each other, but left us wondering if the forest itself could now provide the necessary flora to support the rongoa.   Looking centuries ahead, there was, and is, also concern that the reserve of both podocarp and broadleaved tree saplings waiting to grow when the canopy opens is just not there.   Will this forest be here in 500 years’ time?

Aniwaniwa to Lake Waikereiti

Leaving the road at Aniwaniwa, you step into a mixed podocarp / broad-leaved forest.   Red beech / Fuscospora fusca, silver beech / Lophozonia menziesii, rimu / Dacrydium cupressinum and tawari / Ixerba brexioides, form the canopy, with some kamahi / Weinmannia racemosa.   The understory is dominated by the unpalatable ferns piupiu / Blechnum discolor, and kiokio / B. novae zelandiae, with horopito / Pseudowintera axillaris, the main shrub.   But where were the middle stories?   There were occasional large pate / Schefflera digitata, and many seedlings adjacent to the track.   We did record puhou / Pseudopanax arboreus, and even koromiko / Hebe (Veronica) stricta, makomako / Aristotelia serrata, tree fuchsia / Fuchsia excorticata, kawakawa / Piper excelsum subsp. excelsum and tarata / Pittosporum eugenoides, but these were few and far between.

We noted seedlings, and very occasionally single saplings, of podocarps.   Not apparent were any groves of podocarp saplings.   It was a week later, on the Waiatiu Falls Track at Whirinaki, before we saw several small groves of kahikatea / Dacrcarpus dacrydioides and rimu / Dacrydium cupressinum, with saplings several metres high.   In one of these groves there were two saplings “reaching for the sky” where a light gap gave them the opportunity to replace a fallen rimu.

It became obvious that palatable species that deer and possum could reach had been eaten.   We did note two plants of a mistletoe / Peraxilla sp., a favourite of possums.   But where are the dozens of others we would have seen a hundred years ago?   There was a lack of the very plants that figured in Maori medicine, and a paucity of saplings required to replace the forest in future centuries.

It was reassuring to find seedlings of some palatable species, but we wondered if these are by the track because it is more frequented.   Would they be eaten by this time next year?

The banks of Lake Waikeriti

Having walked to Lake Waikeriti, we had lunch at the shelter and boat ramp, and then started along the track towards Puna Hokoi.   Within fifty metres, the lack of palatable plants was more marked and so also was the change in vegetation.   We were walking through red beech / Fuscospora fusca, passing large neinei / Dracophyllum latifolium, and seeing kidney fern / Cardiomanes reniforme and Hymenophyllum demissum for the first time that day.   Moving away from the lake shore, the beech became silver beech / Lophozonia menziesii, the neinei disappeared and we were back in the same mix of flora as we had walked through to get to the lake-side shelter from Aniwaniwa.   It does appear that the lake provides a micro-climate for 50 metres or so around the lake that is milder than that in the surrounding bush.

Despite possums and deer, there were moments when the flora attracted more than the usual attention: a scattering of small white bells of Jovellana repens along several metres of the track side, the change from Leptopteris hymenophylloides through hybrids to pure Prince of Wales’ fern / L. superba as we gained height, a glimpse of the red flowers of the mistletoe Peraxilla colensoi high in the canopy – we were alerted to it by the blue plastic blaze on the beech-tree host?

On a bank, there was a single white bell flower of Luzuriaga parviflora, and then at the lake’s side, the straggling Dracophyllum latifolium trees, some with the pyramid terminal inflorescence.

Reviving rongoa

That evening Tuhoe’s Jenni Tahuta-Moses told us about the efforts being made to record and re-establish knowledge of rongoa.   Jenni told us how they were collecting information from their elders, and teaching the younger generation how to identify, harvest and process the native flora, and to use rongoa in everyday life.   The question we were left with is how can they revive their medicinal whakapapa when the very plants they need are nearing extinction in their own forest?   We had not resolved this question in our discussions at tea and lunch stops on the following day’s walk.   It was a reluctant conclusion that this degradation of forest was probably occurring throughout the Urewera.

The situation may not be so desperate for the practitioners of rongoa.   We have subsequently seen these plants in frequented areas.   Around the houses in the village we saw many of the plants used in rongoa growing in the hedgerows and bush adjacent to houses.   Later, some of us botanised the track to Lake Kiriopukae and were pleasantly surprised to find plentiful pate / Schefflera digitata, and a forest that had a true middle storey.   This was despite the presence of deer prints in the drying out lake bed.

Rodney Lewington

Day 3 – 20.1.14: Waipai Swamp

There was extensive deer-pugging in the swamp, and evidence of possum browse.   Along the track we saw silver beech / Lophozonia menziesii, crown fern / Blechnum discolor, B. fluviatile, and kiokio / B. novae-zelandiae, water fern / Histiopteris incisa, Prince of Wales’ feathers / Leptopteris superba, and crepe fern / Leptopteris hymenophylloides.

Plants of note included willow-leaved maire / Mida salicifolia, the orchid Thelymitra cyanea with bright-blue flowers, and the sundews / Drosera binata and D. pygmaea.

We saw the orchids: Chiloglottss cornuta and Corybas macranthus, the shrub Neomyrtus pedunculata in flower, pink pine / Halocarpus biformis, a bed of sphagnum moss, the native heath / Androstoma empetrifolia, kahikatea / Dacrycarpus dacrydioides, the rush Empodisma minus covering large areas, and pokaka / Elaeocarpus hookerianus.

We saw or heard several bird species including North Island tomtit, grey warbler, rifleman, kereru, a pair of North Island robins, tui, North Island fantail, whitehead, kaka, waxeye and long-tailed cuckoo, and the introduced chaffinch.

Margaret Herbert

Day 4 – 21.1.14: Lake Kiriopukae and Dry Lakes

The track to the lakes, a short distance along the Waikaremoana Great Walk, is among second-growth forest with lacebark / Hoheria sexstylosa, rewarewa / Knightia excelsa, kanuka / Kunzea ericoides agg., manuka / Leptospermum scoparium agg., and kowhai / Sophora tetraptera.   Ten species of Coprosma are listed.   We tried to identify a large coprosma, possibly C. rigida.   Around the lake, several C. rugosa, with small, sharp-pointed leaves, and 4 m to 5-m-high, supported many Ileostylus micranthus mistletoes.   The lake is small and shallow, in an impressive setting, like a “Stonehenge”, with large boulders strewn around and in the lake.   These are the result of a giant landslide c. 2200 years ago, which blocked the deep gorge of the Waikaretaheke River, leading to the creation of Lake Waikaremoana, and the features seen here.   A small stream, teeming with small fish, flows through the dry lake-beds, then seeps away through the bed of Lake Kiriopukae.   During heavy rainfall, all three lakes fill 3–5 m deep, until eventually draining through Lake Kiriopoukae’s bed.   The lakes are a feeding / breeding site for white-faced heron, paradise duck / putangitangi, pied stilt / poaka, and many other birds.   We botanised the dry lake-beds and saw the tiny blue-flowered Lobelia carens and L. perpusilla, Gonocarpus micranthus and Potentilla anserinoides.

Also botanised that day were the Kaitawa Walk in the Tuai Conservation Area, and Onepoto Caves.

Chris Hopkins

Day 5 – 22.1.14: Ngamoko Range, including Tawa Track loop

The Ngamoko Track climbs through dense forest, steeply at times, to the Ngamoko Range summit, 1099m.

Not far from the start, we detoured along the Tawa Track Loop for its gentler gradient, and the chance to see more of the magnificent forest in this area.

The enormity and density of the emergent trees impressed us all.   There were rimu to c. 40 m plus, including a twin-trunked specimen, towering tawa to c. 25 m, two northern rata, d.b.h. 2 m and 1.4 m, leaning against each other, and a rimu wrapped in the girdling roots of a northern rata, their combined d.b.h. c. 3.5 m.   The largest tree we saw, near the Ngamoko Track, was a 32-m, 4.1-m d.b.h. northern rata, estimated to be 800–1000 years old.   We added numerous species to the plant list, including Hall’s totara, matai, mahoe, black maire, kaikomako, quintinia, Dracophyllum latifolium, Dicksonia fibrosa and D. lanata, Chiloglottis cornuta, Uncinia clavata, Astelia trinerva and Collospermum hastatum.   We recorded browse on the dracophyllum, Coprosma tenuifolia and Astelia solandri.

On this fine day, as background to our botanising, we heard the calls of about ten species of native birds, including NZ falcon / karearea, tomtit / miromiro, whitehead / popokotea, and kaka, plus a continuing chorus of kihikihi / cicadas.

Chris Horne

Ngamoko Track – SH38 to summit, Ngamoko and Lake Kaitawa

Higher up, above a row of sandstone bluffs, cooler temperatures and strong winds increased the presence of the hardier silver beech, now renamed Lophozonia menziesii.   A single specimen of an unidentified Myosotis sp. was an exciting find en route.   We were disappointed that our climb was not rewarded with some sub-alpine habitat and species on the summit.

Ophioglossum coriaceum
Ophioglossum coriaceum.   Photo: Bev Abbott.
While some of the party descended to Lake Kaitawa, another group took the direct ridge route back to Kaitawa.   The sign said three hours, and our expectations of the botany weren’t high as we’d heard the route described as “a boring walk through modified forest and scrub”.   We were to be pleasantly surprised.

On finding Helichrysum lanceolatum, we shared a grumble about the taxonomist who had given such an unhelpful name to this plant with its round/oval leaves that have a distinctive white under-surface.   Unusually broad leaves on the rewarewa / Knightia excelsa generated another discussion but no answers.   These plants were well beyond the juvenile phase, perhaps 5 m tall.

The major find, however, was an Ophioglossum with a fertile stalk about 8 cm tall.   Could it be the stalked adder’s tongue?   The technical capabilities of Ian Goodwin’s camera meant we didn’t have to collect a specimen for identification purposes.   Later in the week, at Arohaki Lagoon, we became more familiar with Ophioglossum coriaceum, but those plants were tiny, less than 4 cm tall.

On reviewing Ian’s photos after the trip, including counting the number of sporangia, Leon Perrie’s view was that our tall adder’s tongue was within the range of characteristics for O. coriaceum.   If it had been O. petiolatum, it would have been a stunning find.   De Lange, et al., in Threatened Plants of NZ (2010) report the status of O. petiolatum as Nationally Critical, and known from only eleven sites.   We finished with new respect for what can be found in regenerating bush.

Bev Abbott

Day 6 – 23.1.14: Old Maori Trail

Ngamoko landslide
Ngamoko landslide – back end.   Photo: Chris Horne.
The track begins on SH38, then runs up the gently sloping valley of Awawaroa Stream, along the back side of the massive landslide off the Ngamoko Range that led to the formation of Lake Waikaremoana.   Huge boulders jut starkly skyward through regenerating forest on the slope south of track.

The first native plant in flower was the parasitic Euphrasia cuneata, among weedy, young forest with ivy, montbretia, brier rose, etc., probably because the valley was once farmed.   Despite deer prints, and browse on Coprosma tenuifolia and Griselinia littoralis, some native species are regenerating.   Metrosideros colensoi was a common climber on small trees.   Huge matai are producing many seedlings.   Among emergents, were scattered large rimu, totara and black maire.   At one point we noted a sward of Plantago raoulii.   From a line of pylons, the track travels through lush, regenerating forest, over the jumbled surface on the southeast side of the landslide, to Lake Kaitawa.

Chris Horne and Barbara Mitcalfe

Day 7 – 24.1.14: Drive through Te Urewera to Minginui and Whirinaki Forest

Day 8 – 25.1.14: Arohaki Lagoon

It was a brilliant day.   The carpark was surrounded by blackberry thickets, so Bryan Halliday enjoyed the harvest, thus helping with pest-plant control.   The first part of the track was infested with Spanish heath, etc., but the weediness decreased as we walked along the track.

We saw two species of cabbage trees, ti kouka / Cordyline australis, common in Wellington, and forest cabbage tree / ti ngahere / C. banksii, sometimes side by side.   Mamaku were abundant, and karapapa / Alseuosmia pusilla, tawa and rimu common.   Cicadas / kihikihi sang in the sun in the canopy.

The unpretentious entry to Arohaki Lagoon, an amphitheatre, was a wonderful surprise.   The lagoon was dry, but Graeme said that it is normally flooded in winter.   Kahikatea surround the lagoon, in rows, each seemingly stepping from the tallest at the back down to the shortest by the lagoon.

In and around the lagoon were rimu, sedges, epiphytes, many grasses, including rare grasses from which Graeme and Gael collected specimens for identification.   In the vicinity we saw lancewood, Prince of Wales’ feathers, and manuka and kanuka bushes growing close to each other.

Rita Chin

Day 8 – 25.1.14: Arohaki Lagoon – an alternative report

It has been a funny day.   Maybe eight days of BotSoc food – not the quality you understand, but the quantity.   Or maybe it’s the company getting to me.   Anyway, the day started as routine as ever.   The porridge call at 7 a.m. (actually 6.58 – it is always early).   Assemble, ready to depart at 8 a.m.   We are to drive to the end of the road and walk the track to Arohaki Lagoon.

We drove, we parked and we walked – it is about 2 km on the map but nearly four on the ground.   A pleasant walk through Beilschmiedia tawa forest with skirted Dicksonia fibrosa.   Then things started to be a little curious.

The forest changed to kahikatea, and there was a little pier but no water.   A large sea of fairy grass / Lachnagrostis elata, with small islands of Juncus.   Carex dipsacea seemed to be washing in a slow swell at each end of the lagoon.   And all over this little sea were porpoises, some up on their tails, others prostrate, staring at the under-sea plants, and poking them with their noses and fins.   They had funny calls – “Hedgehog grass, Schoenus maschalinus, Lobelia carens, Gratiola sexdentata, Eleocharis gracilis.   One porpoise was murmuring in awe - “yellow Hypericum minutiflorum” and another responding with “Ophioglossum”.

It occurred to me at one point that the porpoises were dressed rather like BotSoccers.   Then I realised that this was not a sea, these were not porpoises, this was a Roman arena, and these were the slaves that cleaned up after each event – that would account for all the Latin.   It might have been a hippodrome, but I could not see any horses.

Around the arena were the Roman nobility.   Tall, aristocratic Dacrycarpus dacrydioides, forming a solid wall, and taking little notice of the cleaners who were still mumbling – mainly in Latin – Galium palustre, Parentucellia viscosa, Lilaeopsis ruthiana.   I noticed that only occasionally did they put what they picked up into bags.

I walked around the arena to shake hands with the plebeians.   They were at the very edge of the arena, a bit close to the lions and deer I surmised.   There were at least two from the genus Carex: C. virgata, a maiden I assume, and C. maorica.   Earina autumnalis was sitting on the shoulder of Emperor Kahikatea, entwined with Asplenium flaccidum.   Coprosma rotundifolia was standing back from the edge next to Neomyrtus pedunculata, and seemed to be getting very friendly with Rubus schmidelioides.   Then there was Melicope simplex; he seemed OK, but I wondered if he might become unhinged.   A short chat with Holcus lanatus established that he was a recent immigrant from Eburacum, what is now York, in the north of Britannia.

Standing in groups at the back of the crowd were chaps who all seemed to be called Dicksonia squarrosa, and wore skirts, rather like the ceremonial dress of the modern Greek army.   Myrsine australis had several friends there, and hiding low down were Blechnum fluviatile and Leptopteris hymenophylloides.   I have a full list of all the plebs that I met if you should you want it.

As I left from the pier, I was introduced to Streblus heterophyllus.   I assume that she was some sort of musician, a lutist perhaps from the number of violin shapes she was carrying.   The slaves seemed to think she was very important.

We came back to camp quite early in the afternoon.   They tell me I will feel better in the morning.

PS.   I woke in the night to realise that among the multitudes around the arena I had not met any representatives of the genera Schefflera, Pseudopanax or Fuchsia.   They must have already been sacrificed to the deer and possums and were now fugitives in their own lands.

Rodney Lewington

Day 9 – 26.1.14:

(1) Te Whaiti Nui a Toi Canyon

This gentle walk led through towering tawa, rimu, matai and totara to a bridge over the Whirinaki River, just downstream of the steep-sided canyon, from where we could see down into it.   A few minutes further on, an unmarked track provided access to the point where the river, and presumably kayakers and rafters, enter the canyon.   The vegetation here enriched the species list with numerous plants, both native and exotic.

To experience the canyon through the eyes of the Ngati Whare iwi, view the video of a guided walk on:

Bev Abbott

(2) Waiatiu Falls

Soon after starting into the tall forest, we saw a pile of horse droppings, a source of potential weed seeds Nearby, Brian photographed a spectacular scarlet fungus, Aseroe rubra / stinkhorn.   The seat facing the spectacular falls was a popular lunch spot.

(3) Fort Road

Whirinaki Ecological Management Zone (WEMZ) was set up after the 1979 controversy about the future of Whirinaki Forest.   The Government stopped the logging of this Crown-owned native forest with its tall podocarps, northern rata, and frost flats.   The 15,000-ha site is subject to intensive and sustained management, using bait stations and traps for pest animals, and control of weeds.   Possum territorial markings and browse, on some of the abundant seedlings of Fuchsia excorticata / kotukutuku / tree fuchsia, and Coprosma tenuifolia, indicated that pest control needs even further intensification.

The track through this forest of very tall podocarps and tawa, with tree-fern understorey, is the heart of the WEMZ, and was a fitting finale to our field trip.   We were struck by the size of the Dicksonia fibrosa tree- fern trunks, up to 50 cm d.b.h.   A highlight was the H-shaped rimu, where a branch of an old rimu had rubbed against the bark of a younger rimu, wearing away its bark, so water and nutrient-carrying tissues of the two trees connected and grew together.   This process, called “inosculation”, is a form of grafting.   We read this information on one of the several excellent interpretation panels in the forest.   We also read about the extraordinary endeavours of loggers of former times.   In order to fell a monster totara, with a 2m d.b.h., they cut slots in it for the jigger boards on which they had to stand, to saw through the huge trunk, whose stump we saw.

Chris Horne and Barbara Mitcalfe

Participants :   Bev Abbott, Margaret Aitken, Rita Chin, Barbara Clark, Brett De Vore, Gavin Dench, Gael Donaghy, Raewyn Empson, Dale Every, Julia Fraser, Ken Fraser, Kathy Gibbings, Ian Goodwin, Jill Goodwin, Bryan Halliday, Robin Halliday, Margaret Herbert, Richard Herbert, Chris Hopkins, Chris Horne, Sheena Hudson, Stuart Hudson, Graeme Jane, Brenda Johnston, Sheelagh Leary, Rodney Lewington, Graeme Lyon, Barbara Mitcalfe, Chris Moore, Syd Moore, Mick Parsons, Darea Sherratt, Barbara Simmons, Sunita Singh, Brian Smith.


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