SEARCH (there is a lot more) - plants, beasties, atmospherics, and Wellington's south coast
Keep in touch with the good earth

Autumn colours - scarlet rata and tree ferns at Pukekura Park

The equinox.  People are celebrating spring in the Northern Hemisphere while suddenly here it is very clear that the days are shorter and, just in case we hadn't noticed, a very cold southerly has blasted through along with the turbulence caused by Cyclone Pam.  Autumn is here.                         

At this time of year WOMAD is held in New Plymouth, and going to it means I also get to see Pukekura Park again.  This park is a real treasure of a place, underappreciated I think, with a rich collection of plants. 

A reliable sight is the brilliant red of scarlet rata (Metrosideros fulgens), a New Zealand native vine which flowers in autumn and winter.  It contrasts wonderfully with the rather greyish green of a lot of our shrubs and trees, and makes a wonderful display, climbing up to 10 metres.

This one is growing up the long trunk of a tree fern - probably a mamaku - after first clambering up some shorter tree ferns at its base, in a quiet corner by the Fountain Lake.


Closer up you can see that the clusters of flowers are like a forest of red stamens.Bottoms up!  Heads down and busily feeding, two honey bees enjoy the flowers too.


Hokianga summer - sand, sea, sky

Late summer can be a very special time, a time of "golden weather."  Unfortunately, drought is taking hold in many parts of the country - a good summer for some is not a good summer for all.  Despite my concern about drought, I find that memories of the heat and bright light of summer warm me up through winter's cold grey times.  So I am really pleased with catching this memory prompt - an image of the Hokianga Harbour on a blue sky/bright sunshine day.

The Hokianga is on the west coast of the northern North Island.  This photo, taken at Opononi, looks towards the harbour mouth.  Between the green of the southern head and the high sand dune of the northern head you can just see the white foam of some waves breaking - due to the notorious boat-wrecking sandbar (or to the lashing tails of the taniwha  guarding the mouth of the harbour.)  The sand hills on the north side are 150-170m high.

It is a long estuarine harbour, reaching far inland.  Now a quiet area, it has a rich history.  I am particularly taken by stories of Kupe, the great Polynesian ancestor/explorer who is said to have sailed from Hawaiki, around the North Island and part of the South Island, then settling here.  Some years later he left to return to Hawaiki.  The name for the harbour - "Te Hokianga Nui a Kupe," commemorates this.  It is usually shorted to "Hokianga."  The story and the translations vary, but his description "Te Puna i Te Ao Marama" - "the spring of the world of light" seems very apt too.

I am lucky to be able to return to Hokianga, in memory at the very least.


Morning mist and bright reflections and thinking about what's important.

This year I have been slow to post - frankly dispirited by the size of the suffering that we humans keep creating for ourselves and for the planet.  I've been thinking - what can I do, what shall I focus on?  But while I was on holiday further north in the North Island, nature provided me with some encouragement. At Kaihu, near Dargaville on the Kauri Coast, sunrise briefly coloured the morning mist a soft pink, and burnished the bush with golden light.  A strangely coloured but to me gorgeous scene, uplifting, delightful - I've never seen it quite like that before.

At the end of another day, at Lake Taupo, more lightworks.                        

This is a very big lake.  It partially fills a caldera (collapse crater) of Taupo Volcano, a "supervolcano." Fortunately the eruptions are not frequent.  The caldera's current size is a result of the Oruanui Eruption, which devastated much of the North Island about 27,000 years ago.  There were many smaller eruptions between that and the Taupo Eruption 1800 years ago, the most violent eruption known to have occurred in the world over the last 5000 years.  The ash plume reached the stratosphere and covered New Zealand in least 1cm of ash, and it is possible that this ash was the cause of red sunsets recorded by the Romans and Chinese at that time.

The surrounding Taupo Volcanic Zone is still active, and the Taupo Volcano is regarded as dormant. 

Hmmm.  I think there is a lesson here about our size in the scheme of things. 

But being tiny is not a reason to feel powerless - the Dalai Lama quote comes to mind - "if you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito."


Bee watching on a sunny summer evening

One of those special times - a balmy summer evening when the sunlight is bright and low in the sky and thus providing light at an interesting angle.  It was illuminating a profusion of oregano flowers growing by the verandah, making a bright halo around them.  The vision was not just attractive to me.  Several honeybees were busily feeding. One of the bees caught my eye.  It seemed rather tiny and very determined.  The backlighting made its abdomen appear to glow.It fed, buzzed, landed, fed - appearing very focused...the epitome of the busy bee, reaching ever more of the flowers. Oops, acrobatics were required when one of its feet appeared to get hooked in the plant.But it was only seconds before its balance and feeding resumed.

I was happy drinking in the pleasure of watching this little bee, in turn drinking what I hope was good nourishing nectar.  Bees are so precious now - we keep identifying more hazards, arising from our impact on the environment, the way bees are used and exposed to pests, the use of poisons on the plants they visit.  At least I do know that the herb plant had not been sprayed and there were no neonicotinoids used in that area.  This is a plea to all who read this - do take care of the environment so that bees can recover and flourish.


A vibrant sight - pohutukawa in flower

The end of the year is nigh.  Christmas has been celebrated and the pohutukawa - Metrosideros excelsa, the "New Zealand Christmas tree" - have been blessing us with their beautiful rich reds, ranging from crimson to scarlet.  This one is at Greta Point, but it seems that everywhere you look here in Wellington they are adding their vibrance to the bright summery weather. Although they did not naturally grow in Wellington they have been used a great deal in amenity plantings in the city and in the suburbs.  They thrive almost too well here (as they do to the point of being weeds in places like Spain and California) and there is a cooling down on their use.  Instead we are encouraged to plant a relative that grew here naturally - northern rātā, Metrosideros robusta. 

But when the pohutukawa are in full flower the rich redness is appreciated and welcomed, not least because it is associated with a festive time.  Judging by the number of cameras and smartphones that I see being used, I am not alone in my delight.  And although picturing the pohutukawa flowers is a seasonal cliche, I am happy to celebrate them and with them the pleasures that summer and the end of year can bring.