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

New Year - crimson pohutukawa, golden pingao, capricious weather

It's a New Year but here in Wellington we continue to enjoy the same old weather patterns - southerly then northerly winds and gales, dull then sunny days, flat grey then vibrant blue skies, calm seas then large swells and crashing waves.  Never boring, but often frustrating. 

The crimson flowers of pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa, New Zealand Christmas tree) seem to light up on sunny days - seen here at Island Bay, the view across to Baring Head.And golden pingao (Ficinia spiralis, pīkao, or golden sand sedge) seems to light up a leaden grey day - here on the rocky shore at Te Raekaihau Point on Wellington's south coast.With our weather being so reliably changeable and capricious, the beauty of plants is reliable in a rather more welcome way.


Sparkling raindrops 

We have had a lot of rain.  A lot.  Most plants are thriving, drinking it up.  But this weather can get tedious - grey and heavy.

However, there has been a "silver lining" - sparking silver raindrops on the feathery foliage of fennel...and on the rich reds of the smoke bush (Cotinus) And today we enjoyed bright blue skies and warm sunshine.  Hopefully there is more to come!


Christmas-y colours of spring - Kaka beak, Clematis Sweet Hart

Well, it must still be spring - the weather here in Wellington remains capricious and, frankly, not all that pleasant.  Gales have been blasting tender new growth and the southerlies keep bringing the temperature down - to cold. 

But summer and Christmas are coming.  Here's to the bright colours of early spring - seen in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens - and the coming festivities: The red and green of Kaka beak (Ngutu kaka) And the brilliant white of Clematis Sweet Hart, a hybrid native clematis. 

These were in flower a month or so ago, but I remember them fondly amidst the red, green and white Christmas decorations that have been proliferating for weeks.


A winter treat - sunshine and Monarch butterflies at the Wellington Botanic Garden

Wellington on a good day - no wind, sunshine, and signs that spring is getting closer - what could be better!   Well, a walk in the Botanic Garden and a visit to the scented garden made it better still. 

On the grassy hill by the Treehouse visitor centre, early Narcissus - white and yellow (probably N. tazetta) - are already blooming brightly.  But what were the flashes of orange that I saw? Monarch butterflies were feeding and flittering and chasing each other and resting in the sunshine.  Evidently they have been overwintering here.  After the cold, rain and gales of the previous week, they appeared to be making up for lost time.  Alas, I was not equipped to photograph the ones on the wing, but I happily photographed some of the butterflies more intent on feeding.  These ones on a camellia bush were so settled they looked more like colourful flowers.
There was quite a choice of flowers for a hungry butterfly - yellow wallflowers,pale purple wallflowers,or "yellow daphne" - Edgeworthia chrysantha also known as oriental paperbark, not to mention heliotrope, daphne and other scented lovelies in the garden.  The butterflies' wings looked a bit weatherbeaten, but they were still a magnificent sight.  And the scented flowers were a treat for me too.


Caught in the act - kereru (NZ pigeon) scoffing horoeka berries

I love pathways that get you up high and close to trees.  I was on one at the Arataki Visitors Centre in Auckland's Waitakere Ranges.  There you have a great view sweeping across bush towards the city and the Waitemata and Manukau harbours.  And there is a walkway that threads around some mature trees. 

As I walked along it I heard an odd sort of scrabbling sound coming from one of the trees - a horoeka or lancewood (Pseudopanax crassifolius).   At first, there was nothing obvious to see - but then I caught a glimpse of large red claws, white feather pantaloons, and a back with purplish-green feathers.A kereru (New Zealand pigeon)!  It's a large bird - weight around 650 grams, length 51 cms - so an awkward size for the rather slender branches it was perching on.  But the numerous berries were obviously of interest.  It struggled a bit to get to them, and some gymnastics were required - stretching and balancing.  But it was intent on scoffing those little berries.  The kereru is a frugivore - a fruit eater - but will also eat flower buds and leaves, depending on what is available.  With its big bill it is able to eat the large fruit and drupes of a number of native trees.  The flesh of the fruit is digested, but the seeds are not.  The subsequent dispersal of native tree seeds in pigeon poo, and thus native forest regeneration, depends on the kereru.  Drupes are stone fruit with flesh surrounding a seed protected with a hard shell - like a plum.  And alas for people growing them, the kereru apparently does like the plum. 

The kereru is just one of a number of native birds that disperse horoeka seeds - even the little silvereye can eat the small berries.  So the horoeka does not depend on the kereru.  I daresay smaller birds would cause less kerfuffle when they are feeding on the horoeka too.Maybe it was a bit big for its perch, a bit clumsy in its maneouvres on the horoeka tree.  But what a handsome sight the kereru was as it emerged to inspect me!