The special March issue of Environment and Nature in New Zealand contains seven articles – all by graduates of Otago University’s history department (see also: In search of Arcadia?). As the editor’s introduction states, these essays represent the most concentrated research effort in relation to environmental history of any history department in the country, and are well worth a read.
Maori gardening in pre-European NZ
Horticulture was integral to pre-European Maori culture. As Bee Dawson states in “A history of gardening in New Zealand”, the ability to produce reliable garden crops influenced the settlement patterns of early Maori. Thus, the warmer areas of the North Island, particularly those with fertile volcanic soils, supported much larger populations than those further south where both climate and terrain made horticulture less viable. The northern two-thirds of the North Island proved most rewarding in terms of horticultural production, while Banks Peninsula in the South Island marked the southern limit of Maori horticulture. Continue reading
Weeds – the great European invasion
As Bee Dawson relates in “A history of gardening in New Zealand”, when Europeans began to settle in earnest in New Zealand in the early to mid-19th century, they not only brought with them “productive” plants, but many other plants, which soon became invasive “weeds”. Continue reading