Trip organiser: Jorinna Prinz, Anthea McClelland
Trip guide: Andrew Broome
Destination: Waitarere Forest
When we arrived at Waitarere Forest around 11:00, most of us probably did not have many expectations of what we would find here. Andrew, who had kindly offered to be our NZ orchid expert for the day, had suggested this place. But this was a pine forest with near-zero native vegetation - in fact, almost no vegetation at all underneath the tall pines! A strange scenery, quite the opposite of the lush New Zealand bush.
But just a few minutes after entering, we encountered the first patch of big greenhood orchids (Pterostylis banksii). Walking past without orchids in mind, one would most likely class the scattered green leaf blades, emerging from the pine needles, as a bit of grass. Looking closer, two or three delicate flowers of stunning complexity could be spottted amongst all the leafs. We were lucky - these ones were flowering a bit ahead of their time.
We continued up the next hill and found our second orchid: The spider orchid Corybas trilobus was not flowering, but as we walked on we saw its kidney-shaped leafs popping up everywhere. As we proceeded, we never walked more than a few steps until someone found another patch of orchids. It was a bit of a treasure hunt but also a lot of fun to look into the world of orchids. In New Zealand, you would want to bring a magnifying glass to be able to discover all the beautiful details of these tiny plants. We all forgot to bring one except for Jill! One after the other we had a close look at Thelymitra longifolia, Microtis unifolia, Chiloglottis cornuta and others.
Andrew also told us a bit about their lifestyle, like their symbiosis with fungi, their need for open disturbed ground where they do not get outcompeted by other plants, and that they mainly get pollinated by fungus gnats or are self-pollinating. Just after lunchtime, we headed back to Palmerston North. It had been a short but fascinating walk!
(Text by Jorinna)