New Zealand’s favourite plant

January 15, 2010

Hot on the heels of Forest and Bird’s “Bird of the year” competition comes the NZ Plant Conservation Network‘s 2009 favourite plant poll.  The winner was announced just before Christmas but I must have missed it in the Christmas rush.  While voters in the bird of the year poll managed to display a stunning lack of originality in picking kiwi as their favourite, plant of the year voters were somewhat more creative, voting Pingao as their favourite native plant for 2009. 

Pingao (Desmoschoenus spiralis, or the golden sand sedge) plays an important role in stabilizing sand dunes so its likely to become increasingly important in the face of climate change.  Who’d have thought it has so many fans? The shadowy and mysterious Pingao Pressure Group was obviously busy lobbying for votes while Pohutukawa advocates were looking the other way.   

Here’s a picture:

(Photo by John Sawyer, NZ Plant Conservation Network)

Others in the top ten include the tree nettle (Ongaonga) at number 2, Chatham Island speargrass, some traditional favourites like Southern rata, Chatham Island forget-me-not and Kakabeak, and the plant with the best name of all, the fish-guts plant.

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Photo of the month

June 10, 2009

I’ve decided to start a couple of monthly series, in order to keep this blog on track and create a few themes.  Photo of the month is quite obvious, but the “rules” are that it will be an native species from the NZ forest, in its natural environment*.

For this month, here is a northern rata flower (Metrosideros robusta) to remind you of summer.  Taken on the slopes of Mt Kapakapanui in the western Tararua ranges, just north of Wellington.   Interesting that the flower was quite yellowish instead of red – can any botanists out there shed some light on why this is?

 Metrosideros robustus

*Rules may be subject to change

Morepork on a wire

May 29, 2009

Heading out for a run at around 6pm last night a small figure sitting on the power lines down my street caught my eye.   Upon closer inspection (it was dark), I saw it was a morepork, or ruru (Ninox novaeseelandiae), New Zealand’s only extant native owl.  Unfortunately I couldn’t get a photo, but here’s another pic I found:

The morepork call is one of the most distinctive sounds of the NZ forest, but they are very hard to spot – especially in the suburbs! In fact, this is only the second time I’ve seen a morepork anywhere.  Looks like the morepork is another native bird benefiting from the presence of the Karori Sanctuary (oops I mean Zealandia) providing a predator-free inner-city haven for nesting in Wellington.


Funky fungus

March 26, 2009

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I saw this Stinkhorn fungus Aseroe rubra on a walk up Mt Kapakapanui in the Tararuas. It may look pretty, but apparently the spores smell like rotting meat.