Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Wednesday wildflower: a Cannabis look-alike and a ramble in the bush.

Otari-Wilton's Bush is a patch of forest and an all-native botanical garden in Wellington's suburb Wilton.  It contains most likely the largest bit of mature forest on the Wellington Peninsula, a region that was pretty much all cleared for farming shortly after European settlers arrived.  Much of the forest there is regrowth on old farmland, but some pockets of substantial older podocarp trees still stand.  One is a small group of rimu, Dacrydium cupressinum, on the western side of the valley, matched by another stand nearer the park entrance on the eastern side.
Emergent podocarps over a canopy of tawa (Beilschmiedia tawa, the golden tree in the foreground)
In that western group is one tree that's much larger than all the rest.
The 800-year old rimu at Otari.  The photo doesn't do it justice; that trunk is  nearly 2m diameter.
Maybe it grew faster for some reason, but it's billed as the 800-year old rimu.  If that's true it was a seedling when Māori first arrived, so its age represents all of human history in this land.
Looking up to the crown of the 800-year old rimu.
So to the wildflower/weed.  I've taken a couple of walks at Otari lately, and on the first one I saw this out of the corner of my eye right beside the track.  It brought me up short for a few seconds, until I realised it wasn't Cannabis.
Balm of Gilead, Cedronella canariensis.
Yesterday I went back to see if it was flowering yet, and I had a bit more time to take a good look.  The square stems are a give-away for the family Lamiaceae, and on some old branches I found the remains of last year's fruits, which are in clusters called verticels, again typical of Lamiaceae.  A quick look in the Flora told me that only two Lamiaceae in New Zealand have compound leaves and this matched one of them: Cedronella canariensis, or balm of Gilead.  I'll go back again for photos of the flowers later in the season.
Hīnau, Elaeocarpus dentatus.
Hīnau, Elaeocarpus dentatus, was flowering, and the small white flowers littered the forest floor under the trees.

Pigeonwood, Hedycarya arborea, was also in flower, and the flowers are sweetly scented.
Pigeonwood/porokaiwhiri, Hedycarya arborea, flowers from a male tree above, female below; these ones are not from Otari (scale 1 mm).
It's dioecious (separate male and female trees), and the male flowers were also littering the ground.  The female flowers stay on the trees to become the fruits.  They each have a number of separate carpels (those are their stigmas in the centre of the flower above), so each single female flower forms a cluster of separate fruits.
Old and somewhat shriveled pigeonwood fruits that had fallen to the ground (scale 10 mm).
And here's the beautiful wood pigeon or kererū that disperses those fruits, which take a bit over a year to ripen.  This one was sitting in an introduced broom, Teline stenopetala, in someone's garden near Karori Cemetery, so close to the sidewalk that I could take this photo on my iPhone.  They love young legume leaves, particularly tree lucerne.
Kererū, Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae.

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