A few gems from the Bell’s Track team.

Hi Everyone. Nick here. We have another great blog about all the work being done by Des and the team on Bells Track.

Thanks Nick

Tena Koutou Katoa everyone.

We had our annual get together recently  with a small group interested in the walk and talk.  Food and drink was shared very pleasantly afterwards.  Many thanks to Chris Moore of Otari and the Botanical Society for sharing his knowledge.

Bell’s Track 29th  September 2013

Bells 1This month seems to have flown, with an unusual amount of wind and rain.  There is plenty of growth up the track but due to the wind the new planting firing around.   The griselinias and coprosma pepinqua  are faring well but some of the pittosporums and other coprosmas are easily knocked around by the wind because of their new growth.   Some may need pruning to help establish their root system.   It’s a delight to see so many of our cabbage trees (te kouka: cordyline australis) in flower as it takes 7 years from a seedling to produce flowers.


Bells 2The Tuesday morning Awarua St group is going well, thanks to Janet and Angela.  The worst weeds in this area are tradescantia  (wandering willie) ,sycamore, Japanese honeysuckle and convolvulus.  Sycamore seedlings can be pulled out, young trees cut at the base and older trees ring-barked.   Tradescantia has to be removed from the spot. A new plant can spring from one leaf.  We bag some of it up so if you see black plastic bags left around its because the tradescantia rots down inside and we can keep topping them up.  It will not survive if scattered on a lawn area.   A few small bits can be thrown on the road.    Thanks to the Chan family who earlier got rid of most of the tradescantia at  the bottom of the track.  It is not a major problem there but should you see any it is worth pulling out and throwing on the lawn where there is high foot traffic

The worst weed now on the track is Darwins barberry.   Many thanks to Rory and Jeremy who have done a great job of eradication and also to others who have cleared it from their spot.   The planting season is over and weeding and mulching are our priorities now


Report from predation contrBells 3ol team

Most bait stations have the pellets taken and John Wilmer tells me the tracks will be extended.   We will try to get a grant to buy some more traps.  New traps are available for the stoat problem and recent developments by the Dept of Conservation are making very efficient traps.

The flora this month are three native plants that we do not want on the track and an exotic that we have planted to help with reafforestation.  The fauna is a general look at our lizards.

The three natives not to plant

A) Pohutukawa

This beautiful tree belongs up north in coastal areas.   On our hillsides it could be disastrous.   The brittle leaves do not readily rot and fallen leaves can inhibit growth of other native species.   This sort of plant is called scleromorphic(sclerosis=hardening) similar to most of the Australian bush with the consequent risk of fire.    Additionally it hybridises with rata and we do not wish to facilitate that aspect.

B) Karaka

Another handsome tree but again not of this area.   It is thought that Maori cultivated it here as a food source after treating the fruit to get rid of the poison. The problem with karaka is that it seeds prolifically and forms groves to the detriment of bio-diversity.  It is important that we have a variety of plants so that our fauna will have food all year round.  Seedlings can be pulled out and established trees cut down.

C) Karo ( pittosporum crassifoleum)

This tree belongs to the northern part of NZ and is also a prolific seeder.   On the south coast of Wellington you can see how it has taken over.   It can  cause a change to the soil structure making it unsuitable for indigenous plants.

Tree Lucerne (Cytisus proliferus)  From the Canary islands

We have planted this up the track as a temporary measure to help get the natives established.   It has pea like flowers and therefore nitrogen fixing nodules on the roots plus a good leaf drop for improving the soil.  It is not long lived and eventually the natives will take over.  Tree Lucerne is loved by the kereru (bush pigeon) which feeds on its flowers and leaves.   The kereru is one of our main distributors of native plant seeds, a minimum of 60 species including tawa a fruit other birds find too large to eat.   By attracting birds and sheltering our native plants the tree lucerne helps with reforestation.


A land of lizards

Bells 5On tours I take at Zealandia I often mention that NZ should be about ferns and birds but after reading an article in the Independent herald would also include  lizards.   There are over 100 species and more lizards are found here than in any other temperate country.


Before the arrival of humans there could have been up to 5000 lizards per hectare in some regions.   Lizards include skinks and geckos.  The difference is that skinks blink whereas geckos use their tongues to wipe their eyes. Bells 6 Skinks have tight shiny skins while geckos have loose and folded skins.   Both play an important part in pollination and seed dispersal.  Eradication of lizards means that we also lose plants.  Introduced mammalian predators(cats, hedgehogs),habitat destruction and [poaching have affected our lizard population as drastically as they affected our native birds].

Nine species of lizard are endemic just to the Wellington region, I mentioned the Wellington green gecko in the January 2012 update. Bells 7 Lizards can live up to 50 years, they mature late and have live offspring rather than eggs.  Maybe we are too tidy in our gardens.  With logs and stones piled up we can create safe havens for lizards.  Planting thick complex shrubs like muehlenbeckia species and astelia provide safety and also rata flax kawakawa and the smaller coprosma species provide food

Hei konei ra, Des