Huntleigh Park, Crofton Downs Botany trip
11 April 2017
Wellington City Council’s Huntleigh Park, with the contiguous forest owned by GirlGuidingNZ, comprises one of Wellington’s most ecologically significant native forest areas. The forest, which has numerous large trees, is part of the estimated 1% of the city’s remaining pre-European forest.
Undeterred by the imminent arrival of Cyclone Cook, we set off from Silverstream Road, Crofton Downs, each carrying a map of the bush areas and tracks, and lists of plants and birds recorded there previously. The species on the lists were numbered, to hasten finding them on the lists. We began our ‘botanising’ up the track maintained by WCC in GirlGuidingNZ’s part of the forest.
All Wellington forests have suffered from many decades of browsing of leaves, flowers and fruit by possums, eating of seeds by rats and mice, and in some areas, browsing and trampling by stock, feral goats and pigs. The result has been that during those decades, forest growth and processes have been severely disrupted. Thus we noticed that beneath the crowns of the many tall trees there were often few, if any, saplings and small and medium-sized trees or tree ferns. The intermediate tiers in the forest were often missing. Nevertheless, we saw encouraging signs of recovery.
Occasional fine drizzle made the leaves of the seedlings, saplings, and fern fronds, strikingly shiny, almost as if they wanted to be identified and talked about. We were struck by the number of seedlings of kohekohe, rewarewa, hīnau, kānono and karamu, all favoured by pest animals, and a literal lawn of kahikatea seedlings near a large female tree. We believe that these features are evidence of intensive possum and rodent control in the forest since about 2001. We agreed that the rates we pay to GWRC and WCC are well-spent on pest-animal control.
We had lunch at ‘Hīnau Junction’, comfy under the canopy of a big hīnau whose roots provided seats for some of us. Here we heard, then saw, kākāriki. Five of the group then left for home. The remaining five walked up a minor track, through an area of kohekohe and māhoe forest with virtually no understorey, a stark contrast to the forest we had seen before lunch. We wondered why – had it been a favoured ‘camping ground’ for cattle before the forest was fenced?
Beyond a small clearing once used for camping, we admired three large trees: a tōtara (70 cm diameter), a lancewood (45 cm), and a kahikatea (65 cm). The lancewood is bigger than any of us had ever seen. Now in WCC’s part of the forest, we descended a spur, passed some big miro and a 20cm diameter māpou with numerous galls rather like hand-grenades on its trunk. Later, at a flattish area, we saw the only known rimu in the forest and a mataī, and pulled out seedlings of the invasive karaka and hybrid pseudopanax.
Dropping onto a broad old track, we passed a ramp, illegally built by mountain-bikers. WCC has promised to remove the ramp, and to replace the ‘No mountain bikes’ sign at the stile at the top of the reserve after it was removed by bikers.
Finally we walked along the track on the true left of ‘Korimako Stream’, a tributary of Kaiwharawhara Stream, to the bridge we had crossed at the start of our trip. CH
- Party members
- Andrew Carman, Nikki Clunies-Ross, Margaret Foden, Julia Fraser, Lois Hope, Chris Horne (leader & scribe), Catherine Hutton, Jenny Lewis, Jean Morgan, Kerry Popplewell.