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Trip Report – 17-24 January 2016: Western Waikato Summer Camp

Trip Report – 17-24 January 2016 :   Western Waikato Summer Camp

We came to botanise in a region beyond our weekend reach, and increase our botanical knowledge.   Focusing on a few sites provided more excitement than most of us could cope with in a week, as we had ample opportunities to learn of a new suite of flora that most of us were not familiar with.

We thank Mick Parsons, trip leader, Bev Abbott for arranging our breakfast and lunch menus, John Makin, manager, for his welcome, and opening the remarkably informative museum, and John Dodgson for describing his work destroying an invasive vine on Merremia, Vanuatu, and the ingenious tool he designed to poison it.   Te Kauri Lodge, set in Te Kauri Reserve, the southern limit of kauri, proved to be an excellent base for our field trips.

Lygodium articulatum

Lygodium articulatum.
Illustration: Eleanor Burton.

18.1.16: Te Kauri Scenic Reserve

NZTopo-BE32 Kawhia

Eager and fresh, we all botanised a nearby bush circuit.   The excellent flights of boxed steps down the Sheep Track made for easy viewing.   Highlights were the orchids, the star being Orthoceras novae-zeelandiae.   We compared Lycopodium deuterodensum and L. cernuum side by side.   We saw Astelia trinervia, new to many of us, and the fern, Lygodium articulatum, hanging through the lower canopy of predominantly tanekaha / Phyllocladus trichomanoides.

We stopped for lunch among carpets of Selaginella kraussiana, an indication of how highly trafficked these tracks were by the many visitors.

Lichenologist, Allison Knight, showed some of us her lichenicolous fungus, Biatoropsis usnearum, a brilliant red, grain-of-salt-sized gem.   We accidentally deviated from our planned route (Manuka Track), and took a track that on the map appears shorter - Devlin’s Track.   Devil’s Track would have been a more apt name on the climb among limestone outcrops with many Peperomia urvilleana perched on them, spectacular Rabothamnus solandri tucked underneath, and patches of Mida salicifolia around every corner.

Sheelagh Leary

19.1.16: Walter Scott Private Scenic Reserve

NZTopo50-BE33 Pirongia

We drove 20km in convoy to Scott Rd, and the reserve, owned by Forest & Bird.   At the entrance to this 43ha lowland forest is a notice board with a rather curiously handed map.   We spent six hours botanising among tawa, some podocarps and nikau palms.   The area was probably logged in the early days.   There were very few weeds once within the forest, compared with other reserves in the area.   Some limited planting had obviously been done but only of native plants.   We split into two group, one going clockwise, and one anticlockwise, to explore the reserve.

King fern / para / Ptisana sinclarii is regenerating here.   Some at the foot bridge at the far end of the reserve appeared to be planted, and were not fertile.   Towards the end of the day the anticlockwise group found one really mature plant in a gully, and around it growing numerous youngsters.   This was a highlight of this trip.

The other highlight was the grove of 16 rimu, some at least 40 years old, and just shedding their lower branches.   We stopped here for morning tea and celebrated the 40th anniversary of their planting, by Athol Caldwell in 1976, according to the plaque.

At a more mundane level we did botanise the reserve and added some twenty species.   Notable species were the three patches of giant moss / Dawsonia superba / pahau-kakapo, a single basket-fungus / tutae-kehua / Ileodictyon cibarium, and one Drymoanthus adversus.

Of interest was a “vine” that appeared to be growing downwards from the crown of a mature rimu.   For much of the trip we believed that this must be a northern rata, but by day’s end we had seen several similar vines growing upwards which were obviously Metrosideros fulgens / scarlet rata.   So we decided that the downwardly forked vine must have been a root at its base, perhaps uncovered as the ground level lowered.

Rodney Lewington

20.1.16: Mahaukura Track, Mt Pirongia

NZTopo-BE33 Pirongia

After a night of rain, the morning was partly fine, with thick cloud shrouding Mt Pirongia from the south.   At the Grey Rd car-park, the party divided, some climbing the Ruapane Track, and some the Mahaukura Track.   This description is of the plants along the latter, as far as the junction with the Wharauroa Track.

The lower forest is dominated by stands of tall trees - mainly rewarewa / Knightia excelsa, tawa / Beilschmiedia tawa, mangaeo / Litsea calicaris, tanekaha / Phyllocladus trichomanoides and kohekohe / Dysoxylum spectabile, with the occasional emergent rimu / Dacrydium cupressinum.   The understorey has many hangehange / Genistoma ligustrifolium var. ligustrifolium, and the sprawling toropapa / Alseuosmia macrophylla), which varies greatly in leaf size and shape.   Some plants had entire margins, and some had deep serrations, but none looked different enough to attempt to identify it as the oak-leaved Alseuosmia quercifolia.   It has been a good year for flowering, so the plants had many fruits; in areas where it had more light, the fruits glowed bright red.

Tall Cyathea medullaris were a feature - some people estimating them to be 15 m tall.   There were also the lacy Cyathea cunninghamii, with their narrow trunks.

As we climbed the forest changed, with increasing numbers of Quintinia serrata and Ixerba brexioides, some in flower.   Coprosma aborea was present as an attractive small tree with lacy foliage, the reddish undersides of the leaves giving a different colour to the canopy.   The fern Microsorum novae-zealandiae was recognised by rhizomes that were totally covered in scales, and that did not reach the ground.   It was great to see Hymenophyllum bivalve on a tree - a fern rarely seen this far north.

Ally, our lichen expert, had asked us all to look out for the Data Deficient Dibaeis absoluta, with flat green body and flesh-pink apothecia that lack stalks.   There were cries of joy when she discovered it, and went on to find two more patches.

Nearing the first knoll, we saw the very photogenic Dracophyllum traversii, with great spikes of terminal flowers.   On the knoll we saw Raoulia glabra, an unexpected find so high on the mountain, and, surprisingly, a small Orthoceras novae-zeelandiae in flower.   This orchid is usually a lowland plant.

After the knoll the track became very rough, so most of us retreated at this point.   Those who went on were rewarded with Lycopodium fastigiatum and L. scariosum.   Some of the party went on from here to Mt Pirongia’s summit, 959 m.   The state of the forest seemed to be good, with palatable plants such as toropapa sprawling everywhere.

At the end of the day I compared the plants I had seen, with those on my trip up the Ruapane Track in 2014.   I found the dominant species were similar, but the details different!   Infrequent plants such as Raukawa edgerleyi, Ptisana salicina and Streblus heterophylus which I saw on the Ruapane Track, I did not see on this track.

Both groups met at the car park, then back at Te Kauri Lodge we compared the various routes and plants everyone had seen.

Gael Donaghy

21.1.16: Kauri Grove Track, Te Kauri Scenic Reserve

NZTopo50-BE32 Kawhia

The main purpose of this track, starting c. 1 km SE from Te Kauri Lodge on SH31, is to lead people to the area’s largest stand of the southernmost naturally occurring kauri.

The track runs near a fence by a private pine plantation, slowly descending for about 0.5 km, then leaving the fence to descend a steep spur for c. 150 m into Muturangi Stream.   No species not already seen in the reserve on the previous days were noted, with a fewer species overall.

Along the fence line, the vegetation, coated with pine needles, comprised several dry-tolerant fern species, mingimingi, profuse pigeonwood seedlings, Litsea calicaris, a few Cordyline banksii, Astelia solandri and Quintinia serrata, with an emergent smattering of Phyllocladus trichomanoides, rewarewa, occasional Hall’s totara and rimu.   Nestled among the numerous exotic intrusions were indigenous herbs, e.g., Pterostylis banksia, a Ranunculus sp. and a Lobelia sp.   We had many discussions, including one about Polystichum neozelandicum and P. wawranum.   Our meanderings assisted spore dispersal of a particularly large clump of one of the common Lycoperdon sp. puffballs.

Once the track left the fence line, the conditions became wetter and cooler, giving rise to more forest species and fewer weeds.   After a few slithery metres down, we saw numerous young kauri, the plants getting larger until we reached a group of fair-sized trees surrounding an information board.   We saw two large trees of up to 1 m d.b.h. on the west side of the spur.   They bore numbered metal tags, as did many of the stout smaller kauri.   The trees were mostly in good condition, sporting healthy, flaking bark, and very little lichen.   Accompanying them were Astelia trinerva, Gahnia paucifolia and G. setifolia.   Four species of Hymenophyllum, Drymoanthus adversus and Icthyostomum pygmaeum were spotted, mostly on rewarewa.   Descending a few more metres, we reached the stream, where numerous Cyathea smithii, young pukatea, nikau and parataniwha graced the stream banks.   From here, we decided to return to the lodge, and for many, beach hot-pools were calling.   We thank John Dodson, local Kawhia conservationist, who joined us for the morning.

Michele Dickson

22.1.16: Upper Tawarau Gorge

NZTopo50-BF33 Te Kuiti

“The largest continuous tract of native forest remaining on limestone topography in the North Island” (Flora and Vegetation of parts of Tawarau Forest, Western King Country.   Ogle, CC and Druce, AP.   Wellington Botanical Society Bulletin, (43) April 1987 pp 13-26.)

It was another glorious day - we getting used to the consistent blue skies, lack of wind, and warm temperatures.   We drove through Otorohanga, along Marakopa Rd, and then tiny Apple Tree Rd to the car park.   On Apple Tree Rd, we saw spectacular examples of heavily flowering Olearia cheesemanii, and the site of the ‘frost hollow’ recalled by BotSoc members who were on the 1984 Botanical Survey, described in by Ogle and Druce’s article, quoted above.   The frost hollow is long gone, mainly because of invasions (or plantings?) of Tasmanian blackwood / Acacia melanoxylon.

Near the cars we had our first question, over two ‘grassy-looking plants’.   The consensus was Carex banksiana and C. horizontalis, and it was an opportunity to repeat the old tip: “Sedges have edges, rushes are round, and grasses have joints right down to the ground”.   We noticed that the Pittosporum tenuifolium had much larger leaves than we see in Wellington.   Someone spotted minute flowers on Raukaua anomalus, we admired a grand Cordyline indivisa, and on our return saw five Gastrodia minor growing close together.

We walked down to the river, enjoying the blankets of Leptopteris superba, and through a majestic grove of very large and very old Nestegis montana (> 20 m).   Below them we enjoyed seeing the small rengarenga, Arthropodium candidum.

The river had the typical appearance of a limestone river - tan-coloured, and with pot or millholes on the bed.   The track follows the river downstream, often with a limestone wall close on the right, providing opportunities for eye-level botanising.   Among the plants on this very lovely stretch of the track were Myosotis, Corybas, baby parataniwha / Elatostema rugosa, large, leathery Blechnum colensoi, many species of Hymenophyllum, and various mosses, liverworts, algae, jellies, a dragonfly case, and beaded glow-worm threads.

We had lunch with our feet dangling down the bank, looking out over the river to a magnificent 60m-high limestone wall, with various half-identified plants, mosses, liverworts and lichens providing topics for speculation.

At this stage the party split, with 11 crossing the river to complete the loop track back to the cars, and 11 choosing to keep their boots dry, by returning via the morning’s track.

The loop provided an opportunity to marvel over a very deep and narrow slot in the bank of the river, carved by a stream which entered the river in a waterfall.   Botanically it was similar to the morning’s track, with the additions of three Senecio, Griselinia littoralis, Gunnera monroi, Polystichum wawranum and Pseudognaphalium trinerva, among others.

Rhabdothamnus solandri

Rhabdothamnus solandri.
Photo: Jeremy Rolfe.

We made seventeen additions to the existing Apple Tree Rd list (Jane and Donaghy, 5.4.2010).

There were various detours and mini-trips in the afternoon, with a few items of botanical interest:
•   Raukuri Bush Walk - taurepo / Rhabdothamnus solandri in full flower
•   Waitomo Lookout Walk, among limestone crags and outcrops - Metrosideros colensoi, Pepperomia urvilleana, Asplenium lamprophyllum(?)
•   Oparau - a very large and very prolific Prunus domestica, which provided a couple of kilos of delicious ripe fruit

23.1.16 (a.m.): Marokopa Natural Tunnel Scenic Reserve

NZTopo50-BF32 Piopio

Today we went to the heart of Waitomo.   After a drive of over 90 minutes, including the final steep descent though Murray Brandon’s farm, we arrived at our carpark, the sheepyards on the flats near the forest edge.   Following Murray’s directions we easily found the entrance to the limestone tunnel at the end of a roughly triangular, scrubby area fenced off from the farm, with a stream flowing through it.

The streamside and limestone cliff vegetation on the farm side of the tunnel kept us busy for some time.   This was mostly forest-margin type plants, with pasture grasses underfoot.   The more unusual plants included the limestone obligate, the small fern, Asplenium cimmeriorum.   According to NZPCN, in the North Island this is known only from cave entrances and limestone areas in the Waitomo area, and is more common in the western South Island.   Clematis quadribracteolata also caught our eye with its delicate form.   This would have been at or near its northern limit for the west coast.   We also saw Clematis forsteri.

A scramble over old rock falls led us to the tunnel entrance proper where we saw Asplenium lyallii.   The tunnel itself is spectacular - arching high overhead like an enormous cathedral, with glow-worms / titiwai / Arachnocampa luminosa on the ceiling in the darker sections.   Not only was the height breath-taking, but the limestone formations inside, and the cave’s length and ease of walking all combined to create an overall feeling of ‘awe and wonder’.

After the (mostly) easy walk along the wide stream bed through the tunnel we emerged into a different world - a mature, although milled, lowland forest, with many tree ferns on the valley floor and thick undergrowth.   In places the ground was carpeted with liverworts.   The abundance of Pseudopanax arboreus and Schefflera digitata was a good indication of low possum numbers.   Some of us followed the stream to its junction with the Marakopa River and found a few additions for Graeme’s list including Hymenophyllum rarum, which hadn’t been seen before.   Flowering Rhabdothamnus solandri was a feature around both entrances to the tunnel, and included some varieties with very beautiful dark red flowers.

Barbara Hammonds

23.1.16 (p.m.): Rakaunui Scenic Reserve

NZTopo50-BE32 Kawhia

This was a rewarding two-hour foray, at the end of our last day, into a 10-ha forest remnant on the edge of Kawhia Harbour’s estuary.   Entry was through a fence from pasture halfway up a steep slope.   From there we had to slide down the hillside within the bush to the water’s edge on beds of fronds from the sub-canopy of mainly Dicksonia squarrosa and D. fibrosa that were covered with unusual amounts of Microsorum scandens and Metrosiderous diffusa.   Alongside us were protruding limestone outcrops pocketed with Peperomia urvilleana.   The forest canopy included titoki / Alectryon excelsus subsp. excelsus, that we had not yet seen on this trip, along with mangaeo / Litsea calicaris, Podocarpus totara and P. laetus, and some Hoheria sexstylosa, tawa, puriri and pukatea.   Further back there were very tall kahikatea and nikau / Rhopalostylis sapida.   Over the tidal edge leaned large kowhai / Sophora chathamica and many Pseudopanax arboreus.   Calystegia tuguriorum and Clematis paniculata spread themselves through the estuarine vegetation nearby that was dominated by Bolboschoenus fluviatilis with Typha orientalis and Apodasmia similis.   At the edge were Carex virgata, Cyperus ustulatus, and lots of Blechnum fluviatile amid a mixture of shrubby species including Veronica stricta var. stricta, Leucopogon fasciculatus, Piper excelsum subsp. excelsum, Coprosma rhamnoides and C. propinqua var. propinqua.

There were the calls of many native birds, a feature not noted in the forests we have been in up until now.   Significant among them was the North Island fernbird / Bowdleria punctata vealeae.

Evidence of previous human disturbance on the flatter areas was marked by the revelation of a midden from under upturned mahoe roots.   We thought perhaps this indicated that what we now saw as deep mud formed from forest clearance within the catchment, was possibly once a sandy beach that was a source of kai moana.   It was then a scramble to find our way out along a different route.   We aimed for the top of the reserve up steep forest-floor slopes dotted with Stellaria media, and between limestone outcrops resplendent in ferns including Pellaea rotundifolia, another species not seen in other reserves we visited in the area.   The top edge of the reserve was recognisable by the appearance of Cortaderia selloana / pampas grass, and pressing against the fenced edge of the reserve upon our exit was Calluna vulgaris / Scottish heather, to welcome us into the world of recent land disturbance.

We are deeply grateful for the permission and guidance to such areas by the land owners who treasure these pockets of scenic reserves within their property.   Particular thanks go to Murray and Helen Brandon who not only assisted in providing us with meals, but also guided us to the natural tunnel on their property, Fiona Scott and her crew from the Kawhia women’s group, Grace Marsh and the Hautapu School parents who organised our evening meals, which not only allowed us a longer day in the field, but also allowed us a great avenue of contact within the community that we were privileged to be associated with for a short time.   Many also took advantage of Beryl and her ‘Eel Dorado’ to learn more of the long-finned eel - an experience not to be missed for anyone who wishes to learn more about these magnificent creatures, and our other native fish species.

Mick Parsons

Participants : Bev Abbott, Margaret Aitken, Sam Buckley, Barbara Clark, Lainey Cowan, Gavin Dench, Michele Dickson, Gael Donaghy, Raewyn Empson, Dale Every, Julia Fraser, Ken Fraser, Ian Goodwin, Jill Goodwin, Bryan Halliday, Robin Halliday, Barbara Hammonds, Chris Hopkins, Chris Horne, Sheena Hudson, Stuart Hudson, Graeme Jane, Brenda Johnston, Allison Knight, Sheelagh Leary, Rodney Lewington, Betsy Macgregor, Andy Malone, Barbara Mitcalfe, Syd Moore, Mick Parsons (leader), Darea Sherratt, Barbara Simmons, Sunita Singh, Val Smith


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