IMG_3810Manuka, along with its indigenous cousin, kanuka, have long been referred to as “scrub” by New Zealanders. “Scrub” is a term which infers something diminutive, including small trees or shrubs, and has a nuance of inferiority. As one of the first species to recolonise an area of cleared bush, manuka has long been viewed with loathing by farmers – its vigour and ability to quickly regenerate made it a cursed “weed”.

But, in our back garden, with its fine needle-like leaves, and covered in a shower of delicate, five-petaled flowers and pearl-like buds, it is reminiscent of snow on a small pine tree. In my mind, it is more than worthy of being New Zealand’s answer to the Christmas tree.

An article in the New Zealand Listener by Rebecca Macfie is entitled “Nature ground zero” and describes an initiative in Canterbury to give “a new lease of life” to “the devastated native flora of the Canterbury Plains” [click here to read article]. The initiative is to identify and encourage the reintroduction of indigenous plant species which provide “ecosystem services” such as the provision of pollen and nectar to attract beneficial insects, improved soil health, weed suppression, the control of pest insects, and greater biodiversity. The project is focused on the Waipara Valley of Northern Canterbury, which is renowned for its vineyards, but has potential to be applied across Canterbury. (more…)

The dramatic tussock-lands of Lindis Pass are one the iconic landscapes of the South Island, and much admired by the traveler on their way from Canterbury to Queenstown or beyond. So iconic has this landscape become, it is hard to believe that while the tussock vegetation is “indigenous”, it is not “natural”. Rather, it is a human-induced landscape.

Lindis Pass is part of an extensive “dryland zone” which extends along much of the eastern part of the South Island [see map below right]. (more…)

The earlier post on Hunting in New Zealand prompted one of our regular contributors, Paul Knight (now 74), to reminisce about his own hunting days:

When I was a child, my father used to take me fishing in Whangaroa Harbour and hunting for rabbits and hares, ducks and swans.  By my early teens I had graduated to hunting deer.  The purpose of both the fishing and the hunting was to keep an old freezer stocked for the family of 6. By the time I was a university student in the 1950s, I went hunting for deer by myself, traveling by motorbike with sidecar (Triumph 500 Speed Twin), mostly to Minginui Forest, west of Te Urewera National Park.

Hunting at Minginui was always successful.  There was no need to get up at dawn.  Even in the middle of the day you could creep up on clearings in the kanuka scrub or forest with a good chance of finding a herd of anything up to about 20 deer resting in the sun.  They would make off in panic and not infrequently ran straight at me in the confusion. (more…)

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