From the plateau high above the river, Tom showed us where the new highway is going to be built from next year and explained the recent work done to the rivers for banks protection. He also shared interesting facts about river works and how the rivers react to it. We learnt that the Ashhurst Domain area is a former pā site, which is of significance to local iwi known as Otangaki. Their ancestors used the Gorge as a road and stopped in this area for refilling their food, which explains the big abundance of karaka trees planted for food supply. The river island below us was cultivated to grow food too. Now we could see farmed flood plains and wetlands below us in the river valley.
After saying goodbye to Tom who was off to his next meeting, we made our way down to the wetlands. A few ducks and some bigger water birds took off as we came closer, and when we found our track occupied by a group of cattle we decided to turn back and hit the bush tracks. Along the way we learnt about different weed species in the area and the control work that has been done over the years. After passing through a stand of big totara, a side track took us out to the cliff of the river valley, where a recent flood had taken out a chunk of bush. Along the path was a line of fascinating basket fungi (Ileodictyon cibarium), and back on the main track we admired the dense vegetation with the giant maidenhair fern, swamp maire and kiekie. There were many birds to hear and to see flying between the big trees, while we slowly emerged from the swamp back up to the plateau to finish our circuit.
(Text by Jorinna)
May 2019 - A Guided tour of a Biocontrol test site for Tradescantia and Broom and afterwards a walk-through Massey Arboretum
Our May trip was in two parts – the first part was to look at two Landcare Research
biocontrol research plots for tradescantia and broom and then we moved on to visit Massey
On a lovely sunny morning, 10 of us met at the research site and were met by Jack Keast,
Horizons Biosecurity Officer – Plants. Jack first talked to us about biocontrol for our invasive
plants and how they were tested. Then we moved on to the research plot for the
trandescantia leaf beetle. Here we saw how the beetle was damaging the plant which will
eventually lead to the plant dying. We then moved on to see the damage to broom caused
by the broom gall mite. Jack explained at each site how the trandescantia leaf beetle and
broom gall mite worked on the plants and how the biocontrol agents spread. All to soon we
moved to the second part of our trip – Massey Arboretum.
Although right on our doorstep, it was a first for most of us - a visit to the Massey
Arboretum, lying behind Bledisloe Park. Dr. Marion Mackay, Senior Lecturer in Environment
Management, Massey University, led us on a guided walk through the autumn leaves
relating stories and history along the way.
The idea for an arboretum germinated in 1943 but it was only when Dave Bull came on the
scene in the early 1970’s that it really blossomed. As Head Groundsman Dave established
most of the collection from his visits to far off and mysterious places, with a bit of trading
around with other like-minded collectors to get something a little extra. The Arboretum is
certainly an asset to the city.
Peeling bark, winter flowers and autumn colours made for a lovely walk this autumn, but
certainly worth a wander any season."
Text by Anthea McClelland and Vivienne McGlynn
(Text by Jorinna)
After our summer break, the first trip this year took us to Foxton Beach. Arnim, our trip guide, was awaiting us at the edge of the salt marsh, where he already had installed identification cards at some of the local plant species: we got introduced to beaded samphire, oioi, arrow grass and other small marsh plants. Quite often this required going down on your hands and knees to look at tiny flowers and leaflets. We also learned about the various rushes around.
From the salt marsh we went on, up the parabolic dune for a beautiful view across to the ocean and over the Manawatu Estuary, which is a wetland of international significance being a RAMSAR site. Arnim pointed out issues with the use of the area for 4WD activities, which are a thread for nesting birds and for the dune vegetation. We learned to estinguish the native spinifex (a dune stabiliser like the pingao) from the introduced marram grass and made our way down. The big enclosed flat displayed interesting plant communities. Arnim showed us the late flowering makoako, the sand wind grass and many others, while pulling out some upcoming weeds and looking for spiders on the drift wood. We did not find a katipo spider this time but learned lots about its biology and found another native spider instead.
Some of the group had pulled out plastic bags to pick up some of the scattered rubbish around. After a bite to eat we made our way back, still discovering more characteristic dune and marsh plants. So many fascinating species, withstanding strong winds, storms and salt accumulation! Yet the biggest threat is man made, by weeds infestation and disturbance through vehicles. This area needs better protection and maybe a community project for some restoration work, to preserve this rich ecosystem for the future.
(Text by Jorinna)