Update from Bells’ Track

Tena koutou katoa

It had been rather dry but now we can, after the recent rains, say the opposite   Reasonable temperatures are promoting autumn growth.   From now on will be the beginning of our planting season and we will need extra help so if you know of anyone keen to help please put them in touch with me.  Stan, our longest serving volunteer has unfortunately had a fall and will be out of action for some time.

I have been asked by the Wadestown Horticultural Society to give a talk on weeds and weedless gardens.   This has enabled me to update my knowledge about weeds.  I have mentioned before that 25000 species of plants have been imported and that 10% of these now grow in the wild and 10% of these have become pest plants.  So we have 250 plants that threaten our environment and eco-systems.   Additionally I Iearn that  there are 35000 exotic ( non-native) species and 15 -30 species go wild every year  increasing the number of threats to our environment.   Some would say that weeds really are more of a problem than introduced fauna. It is important to recognise pest plants and this is where our Tuesday group is helping particularly.   Wet Tuesdays have recently stopped activity but prior to that we discovered more old man’s beard so I am including some information on this plant.  Clianthus is this month’s native flora and I understand from a National Radio broadcast that there are only 120 plants left in the wild.   The fauna is the miromiro  – the tomtit

The next working bee will be Sunday 4 May at the usual time pf 10-30 12-30 and the Tuesday group will meet at around  Awarua St station at 11am.

Hei konei ra



Clematis Vitalba ( old man’s beard)

A vine capable of destroying vast tracts of bush.   The creamy white flowers appear in summer and early autumn.   Do not confuse with the native clematis that has 3 leaves per stalk while old man’s beard has five.   Native clematis has s smooth vine while old man’s beard has 6 strong longtitudinal ribs.   Each vine can grow up to 10m in a season.   Each plant can produce 100,000 seeds in a year.   The best method of controlling it is to cut the vines to the ground and apply herbicide immediately.   Watch for regrowth as it may come back after treatment.

Kakabeak (Kowhai ngutukaka) Clianthus

There are two species, both critically endangered – clianthus puniceus and clianthus maximeus which is more widespread than puniceus.  Endemic to the North Island  and Great Barrier island. Exact habitat preferences are hard to determine as they were spread around the country by Maori. Most garden kakabeak are descended from just a few plants.   Few of the wild types are represented in the cultivated population .

It is one of our most threatened plant and threats include deer, goats, pigs , hares, stock and introduced garden snails and slugs ( which are often in the wild).   Kowhai ngutukaka was noted as being uncommon in the wild as early as last century.   Introduced plants such as Mexican daisy, gorse and buddleia also threaten its survival as they live in similar sites.  A unigue way of saving the species involves shooting the seeds from a shot gun into areas where predators like deer and goats cannot get at them.   We have several clianthus in our garden and I am amazed at how long they flower, mostly September through December.   One night , with a torch, I removed 50 snails off one plant.

Miromiro (Tomtits)

This is one of our cutest birds, only 13 cms long.  It belongs to the Australasian family of birds and is not a robin.   The male north island subspecies are distinctively black and white, with black head and wings and a white belly.   Zealandia tried to colonise them but because the north island robin (Toutouwai)( Again not a true robin) was well established there it did not work.  Both Toutouwai  and tomtits belong to the same group ( flycatchers ) along with the fantail.  The toutouwai were not keen to have the tomtits  around.   Apparently they can co-exist in parts of the North Island where the area is large enough for the tomtits to escape.   At Zealandia they escaped over the fence and were predated.  Perhaps if more people joined the Halo Group they would have a better chance of survival Apparently tomtits can sometimes join together as a mob to drive out moreporks and cuckoos from their territory.  They are renowned for their sharp eyesight and can spot insects as far away as 12 metres.