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

Hugging the slopes

The south coast is fringed by steep slopes - would they qualify to be called cliffs?  Houses tend to be built along the bottom, close to water's edge, or perched on the tops, catching the views and the wind.   Generally it's too steep to build in between, and the plants growing there secure the sometimes slippery slopes.


Owhiro Bay - distribution of houses.

The vegetation covering these slopes is like a lumpy blanket of plants which mould to the contours of the hill, sculpted by the wind, protected from damage by their low profile.  Desiccation is limited by their grey or small or strappy leaves.  By hugging the slopes and huddling together these tough plants create microclimates which shelter less tough plants.  This slope, by Owhiro Bay, has a collection which includes NZ flax, gorse, pittosporums, ngaio, cordylines, coprosmas, artemisias, and a wiry mounding plant which I haven't yet identified - there are quite a few native plants like this, an intriguing group.  Golden flowered gorse, a pestiferous introduced weed in other parts of the country, here acts as a "nursery plant" providing the conditions for seedlings of native plants to grow.

Plants on the slopes by the coast at Owhiro Bay.

Note the ubiquitous seagulls - it is difficult to get a photo around here without one intruding, and especially in evening shots distant seagulls often speckle my images like sensor dust!  But they surely qualify as toughies, real survivors.      


Tenacious plants 

If you are a plant and you are living along the south coast here, you are resilient and tenacious, or have lucked into a sheltered and auspicious spot.  Salt spray and battering winds cause physical harm and desiccation and the rocky shore and cliffs offer very little soil to anchor your roots.  Nevertheless, many plants survive and some even flourish.  Plants have evolved a variety of tactics to manage this feat - for example having leaf structures which reduce water loss from transpiration.  The long thin leaves of grasses growing along the sandy dunes bend with the wind and limit dehydration.  Their deep roots hold on to the sand and have the effect of stabilising the dunes.  I think that these very functional plants also look very fetching outlined by the golden light of the late afternoon.

High tide at Lyall Bay, late afternoon - grasses holding the dunes.


Colourful Skies - a soft pink sunrise over Taputeranga

Living in Wellington, especially by the coast, has made me much more aware of the wind - a feature of this location - and the rapidly changing cloudscapes that result.  Wonderful clouds can mean gorgeous skies as the sun rises and sets.  Some people are a bit churlish about photographs of sunrise and sunset, regarding them as tired cliches.  But I keep being entranced by the transient beauty created by the clouds and light, and unapologetically offer you this image - the first of many, I am sure. 

Tranquil (to my eyes) and dramatic - soft pink sunrise over Taputeranga and Island Bay


21/6/12 Midwinter,  Matariki

It is now midwinter in the southern hemisphere.  The arrival of the shortest day does not mean that the days will get warmer just yet, but they will get longer again...bit by bit.  I welcome that thought - we humans are light responsive creatures and I surely appreciate the light and warmth of the sun. 

Matariki is the Maori name for the group of stars otherwise known as the Pleiades, which appear in the dawn sky at this time of year.  Matariki is also the name given to the celebration of the appearance of these stars and of the new moon at this time - a time for remembering the dead and welcoming new life and growth - a New Year celebration.  It is relatively recently that there has been a revival of the celebration of Matariki.  

Alas, today the sky is thickly clouded and it is raining.  But there is plenty of time for the fireworks, kite flying, planting of trees and other celebrations that will take place around the country over the next few weeks.

Here on the south coast near Island Bay we have been having some big southerly storms.  They bring the cold from Antarctica and they are never boring - dramatic seas swell and crash, depositing seaweed, sand, driftwood and shingle on the roads, washing out and carving in new shoreline shapes, misting the air with salt spray, and curling and foaming and swelling.  We have been sandblasted and whipped by the wind.  Plants are sculpted, people lean against the wind, the seagulls surf the wind.  Then, when the winds change there is a period of blessed calm, even clear skies and sunshine. 

Not a bad place to be! A natural sculpture of seaweed and driftwood atop the seawall, care of the storm.

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