Bracken Fern

Bracken Fern

Habitat

Bracken is often found on the sides of open tracks through grasslands or on mountains just at the edge of the bush.

Identification

Bracken forms a tangled mess of both vibrant green and dead brown fern leaves usually around 20cms long. Bracken often has underground stems that shoot fiddleheads into the air on leafless stalks(fiddleheads look like snails). Maori consider the underground stalks a delicacy although recent evidence suggests a link with some cancers.

Description

Bracken is one of the most successful ferm species having colonized most of the world in both hemispheres. We have fossils that date back 55 million years.



Cabbage Tree (ti kouka)

Cabbage Tree

Height

Up to 20 meters

Habitat

Cabbage trees are found all over NZ under around 800 meters above sea level and are common anywhere they have a little space such as swamps and wind blown hill sides. They do better in damp conditions.

Identification

Cabbage trees are very distinctive with a long though thin trunk and bunches of long, thin leaves similar to flax. The flowers are usually white growing in bunches on stems from each bunch of leaves.

Description

Cabbage trees were very common in NZ particularly as one of the few species that did well once some space was cleared by people. Unfortunately in recent times they have been hit hard by a disease that causes yellowing of the leaves and eventually death.



Cutty Grass or ToeToe(often misspelt ToiToi)

ToeToe

Height

Up to 2 meters

Habitat

ToeToe is very hardy and will grow pretty much anywhere they can get enough light right up to 600metres above sea level. Common in creeks, swamps, sanddunes and on the side of the road ToeToe has done well from the clearing of the original forest cover. Of the four species in NZ C.Fulvida is found throughout the North Island, C.Richardii is found throughout the South Island, C.Splendens grows near Kawhia and in the Bay of Islands and C. toetoe is seen south of Auckland in the North Island.

Identification

ToeToe is easily identified from both its long, sharp grass like fronds up to two metres in length and its white, furry flower heads on long stalks. Unfortunately the NZ native ToeToe has a competitor from South Africa called Pampas grass which looks similar but is very invasive.

Description

ToeToe is New Zealands largest grass species and its white furry flower heads are considered iconicly kiwi despite being found in other countries. Most kids first experience with this grass is getting cut by the fronds and therefore name it cutty grass.



Flax (Harakeke)

Flax

Habitat

Flax is prolific in swampy areas but can also be found anywhere it can get a toe-hold with enough sunshine and damp soil. There are two flax families in NZ with lots of varieties within each family. They are the common variety which is found up and down the country and the mountain flax common at altitude and around the coast where nothing else competes.

Identification

Flax have long green leaves growing up to 2.5m long. They also flower and seed off a central stalk that grows larger then the flax itself.

Description

Flax is no relative to the European Flax after which it is named being more closely related to the Lily. Flax was used extensively by both Maori and the early settlers for weaving and rope making.



Kauri

Kauri

Height

Up to 50 meters

Habitat

Kauri are found in the north of the North Island from around 38. Kauri use various strategies to crowd out other species including size and bark shedding however it will take a long, long time for Kauri to regain dominance.

Identification

Kauri grow to around 50m tall with the trunk up to 4m thick. The bark of Kauri varies in colour from light grey through to light brown and large flakes are constantly falling off the tree forming a mound around the base of the tree. The single trunk is thick and cylindrical (making it ideal for sailing masts) rising up with the canopy only at the very top due to Kauri's ability to shed branches as they are no longer required. Leaves are leathery and around 5cm long and 1cm wide.

Description

Kauri grow to around 50m tall with the trunk up to 4m thick. The bark of Kauri varies in colour from light grey through to light brown and large flakes are constantly falling off the tree forming a mound around the base of the tree. The single trunk is thick and cylindrical (making it ideal for sailing masts) rising up with the canopy only at the very top due to Kauri's ability to shed branches as they are no longer required. Leaves are leathery and around 5cm long and 1cm wide.



Kawakawa (Pepper Tree or Joyce's Tree)

KawaKawa

Height

Up to 6 meters

Habitat

Kawakawa are hardy plants growing well in both shady and sunny positions and therefore tend to grow on either the forest floor or near the coast where other trees can't stand the conditions.

Identification

Kawakawa have broad heart shaped leaves and trunks that are notched similar to bamboo. The leaves are often partially eaten by the native looper caterpillar.

Description

Kawakawa was used by Maori as a medicinal plant and are worn during Powhiri (Maori welcome) and mourning. Interesting the name is literally translated as bitter (Kawa) due to the sharp taste of the leaves.



Lancewood (Horoeka)

Lancewood

Habitat

The Lancewood is found throughout NZ and favours living under the bush canopy at least in its juvenile phase.

Identification

The Lancewood is very unusual in that it completely changes its appearance as it gets older. For the first 15 to 20 years the Lancewood lives up to its name with a single central trunk and long (up to 70cm), slender (around 1cm), dark green leaves with a central red channel growing at an angle off the main trunk. In later life they branch out and the leaves shrink and broaden.

Description

Most kiwis know the characteristic shape of the juvenile Lancewood but don't realise it changes as it gets older. Interestingly this might be a protection measure against being grazed by the Moa.



Mahoe (Whitey-wood)

Mahoe

Habitat

Mahoe is found NZ wide and tends to do well in regenerating bush although it can also be found in established forests albeit stunted.

Identification

Related to the Violet family Mahoe has two features which make it easy to spot. The leaves are slightly serated irregularly and the trunk has patches of white (and thus the other name).

Description

Mahoe grows up to 10m tall and has a relatively thin trunk for a NZ native of around 50-60cm when fully grown.



Manuka (Tea Tree)

Manuka

Habitat

Manuka does well in regenerating forest or in areas near the coast where the canopy isn't too high and conditions are harsh. Manuka is found in both NZ and South Eastern Australia where its commonly known as Tea Tree.

Identification

Manuka has small long leaves forming a tangled mess and a shabby looking trunk with paper like bark peeling off.

Description

The english name Tea Tree refers to Captain Cook who used this tree to brew a strong tea. I've given this a go myself and while the flavour is a little wooden it is bearable. Manuka is probably best known the world over for medicinal Manuka Honey and related health products.



Onga Onga (Tree Nettle)

OngaOnga

Height

Up to 2 meters

Habitat

Prefers damp areas without all day direct sun. Quite common on the side of streams under other small shrubs. Thankfully doesn't do well under a full bush canopy

Identification

Some parts of the the leaves and most of the stem is covered with 'fur' around half a centimeter long. The overall colour is light green with longish serrated leaves.

Description

Sometimes wrongly called poison ivy this is a plant best avoided when in the bush. The poison is released when bare skins rubs against the fur on the stems and leaves and is similar to a beesting.



Pohutukawa (NZ christmas tree)

Pohutukawa

Height

Up to 20 meters

Habitat

Pohutukawa's do best in windy, coastal environments and are renowned for clinging to cliffs and hard to reach areas including lava flows on Rangitoto. They were found in the northern 3/4s of the North Island but have been successfully replanted all over New Zealand including Stewart Island.

Identification

The pohutukawa is easily identified from its overall round shape, its medium sized round, dark green leaves and bright red flowers that usually open around christmas time (thus the NZ christmas tree).

Description

The pohutukawa is an iconic New Zealand native although its fair to say similar relatives are found in other countries in the Pacific. In the north of the North Island where it grows in abundance near the coast its the quintessential reminder of summer holidays and Christmas.



Punga (Silver Tree Fern)

Punga

Habitat

Punga are common throughout NZ, found in harsh growing areas with enough moisture or regenerating bush. Surprsingly they don't do well under big canopies but tend to be found near creeks and steep banks where larger trees don't have a chance to shadow them.

Identification

Punga is most easily identified by the silver white appearance under the large fronds and the single trunk with the remains of old fronds that have fallen off.

Description




Rangiora (Bushmans Friend and Bushmans Toilet Paper)

Rangiora

Height

Up to 3 meters

Habitat

Rangiora is common in the North Island and the top of the South Island. Rangiora is a hardy plant that prefers some direct sunlight however it will live in the shade where conditions allow.

Identification

Rangiora leaves come in a number of sizes but broadly are lobed as per our example and can most easily be identified by the soft, downy layer underneath the leaf. The flowers are bunches of very small, white flowers.

Description

I'll leave it to you to figure out why one of its common names is bushmans toilet paper but hint its related to the underside of the leaves and the generous size. Rangiora is used in a number of maori herbal remedies and is a favourite of possums.



Spaniard or speargrass (Taramea)

Spaniard or speargrass

Height

Up to 2 meters

Habitat

A tenacious sub-alpine plant found amongst the tussock. The various species are common throughout sub-alpine areas of both islands of NZ.

Identification

The leaves are long and slender with a very sharp point (easily able to break the skin) and the colour varies from dark green to golden. Most identifiable from the flowering 'spear' with the connical group of golden flowers.

Description

This is both a favourite sub alpine plant and a curse. I still have scars where I've climbed up through spaniard in the Tararuas but its truly a stunning plant. Its other common name speargrass isn't so much because of the sharp stabbing leaves but more the stalk that holds the group of small, golden flowers. These are usually much longer then the rest of the plants and often cause confusion for trampers trying to follow poled routes.



Tawa

Tawa

Habitat

Tawa is a common native found in the North Island and the south east of the South Island.

Identification

Tawa grow up to 30m tall with the trunk typically around 1m in diameter. The leaves are unusually thin and brittle for an NZ native, light green in colour and around 7cm long, 2cm wide. The leaves also often point down, unable to support their own weight.

Description

Coming from Tawa in Wellington this is a tree I often see in my travels. Tawa timber is one of the rare NZ hardwoods and is often used for flooring and some furniture. Unusually the Tawa is reliant on Kereru (Wood Pigeon) and Kokako to spread its seed as the fruit is too large for other NZ birds.



Totara (red pine)

Totara

Height

Up to 30 meters

Habitat

Totara are found from the coast right up to subalpine levels. They are very tough trees and can grow in most areas and temperatures. They are found in both the North and South Islands.

Identification

Totara are identified from the long thin leaves and the stringy, shredding bark and redish wood unerneath. Trees have very thick stubby trunks.

Description

Totara are one of NZs most popular trees if you look at sales of native plants. They are also surprisingly popular overseas mostly due to the ornimental appearance and hardyness.



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