Art. XXXIX.—On the Botany of the Thames Goldfields.
[Read before the Auckland Institute, 2nd July, 1883.]
This is the title of a valuable paper by Mr. T. Kirk, F.L.S., that appeared in the second volume of the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, and as the object of the present paper is to supplement what has been there published, the title of Mr. Kirk's paper appears to be the most appropriate.
No cursory examination of the district could add anything to the paper of this distinguished botanist; but a residence of three years in the district, a thorough exploration of the dividing-range, and a careful examination of the vegetation in every season have enabled me to collect the following additional information.
The district examined will be found to differ slightly from that reported on by Mr. Kirk. It is the country intervening between a line drawn on one side from Tapu to Puriri, and on the other side from Mount Wynard (Mamaepuke) to Pakirarahi, which are peaks on the main range between the Thames and Tairua. One visit was made to the east coast, in order that some comparison could be made between the evident zones of vegetation on the west side with those on the east, and also with the hope of finding some of the plants that have not been gathered since the time of the visit of the first botanists to the coasts of New Zealand.
The term “main range “is used to distinguish it from a second range on the Thames side, not very well defined, which rises into peaks at the “Look-out Rocks” and Ipuwhakatara. In the secondary range all the streams flowing west take their rise, with the exception of the Kaueranga, which comes from the very heart of the main range. It is scarcely necessary to say that this range is the most interesting part of the district from a botanical point of view. Wherever the summit is examined, it shows a characteristic vegetation which enables an observer to know at once that he is on the main range.
The plants specially referred to are Melicytus lanceolatus, Metrosideros albiflora, Panax discolor, Panax simplex, Coprosma fœtidissima, C. colensoi, Gaultheria rupestris, Archeria racemosa, Pimelea buxifolia, Phyllocladus glauca, and Dacrydium intermedium. In the gorges will be found Senecio myrianthos, Loxsoma cunninghamii, Lomaria elongata, and Lindsæa viridis.
Some of these plants can be found on the peaks of the secondary range, but Coprosma colensoi, Panax simplex, Pimelea buxifolia, and Archeria racemosa are, according to my observations, only found on the main range. Indeed the abundance of Archeria racemosa in this locality induced me to make diligent search for it on the secondary range, but without success.
The highest peaks on this range in the district examined are Mamaepuke, Whakairi, Kaitarakihi, and Pakirarahi.
Each of these deserves special mention, but as Mr. Kirk gives a description of the first, it is only necessary to add to his remarks an observation that appears worthy of attention. One of the approaches to Mamaepuke (Mount Wynard) is by a steep ridge that rises to a height little inferior to that of the mountain itself, and yet the deep gully that separates these ranges also separates the characteristic main range vegetation from that of the taua, hinau, and other common plants, on the lofty ridge that approaches it.
The next high hill on the range in a southerly direction is Whakairi, or Table Mountain; and as it is within an easy day's walk from the Thames, I have been several times on the summit which forms a broad plateau.
The plants peculiar to the mountain are Celmisia longifolia and Epacris sinclairii. The Celmisia is in Mr. Kirk's list, but it differs widely from the South Island plant of the same name. I have seen it only on a bare cliff near the summit of this mountain, and there were not more than a dozen plants.
The Epacris was not flowering at the time it was gathered. It probably flowers in November at the same time as E. pauciflora.
The other plants found on Whakairi can be also found on the opposite but much lower peak, Atuatumai, and from thence all along the ranges that rise precipitously from the upper course of the Kaueranga. This part of the river is not very well known unless to gum-diggers. Its course is from west to east, and it flows right from the heart of the main range. It bears some resemblance to the head waters of the Canterbury rivers in the water-falls, the masses of rock in the course, and the narrow gorges; but the ruggedness of the precipitous walls of rock on each side of the stream are clothed with an abundant growth of kiekie and Gahnia. The whole of this upper course has the characteristic main range vegetation on the summits of the ranges, with abundance of Loxsoma cunninghamii and Lindsæa virdis near the stream, and of Lomaria elongata near the cataracts.
The next peak on the range is Kaitarakihi, which stands near the source of the Piraunui Creek, a tributary of the Kaueranga. Like Whakairi it rises in a series of plateaux, the characteristic trachyte formation. A stiff climb is succeeded by a broad flat, and so on until the summit is reached, which is very unlike that of Table Mountain, as it is very narrow. The view from the top is perhaps more extensive than from any peak on the peninsula.
The plant peculiar to the upper part of the mountain, but not growing near the summit, is Coprosma fætidissima. This is a very rare plant on the Thames side; as I found it in one place only off the main range, and that
was on the ridge between the head waters of the Puru and Waiomio Creeks. It was evidently a straggler from Whakairi, although not observed on that mountain. On Kaitarakihi it is very abundant, and it can be found on the wooded sides of all the high peaks to Te Aroha Mountain. The other rare plants abundant on the hill are Panax simplex, Coprosma colensoi, and Cordyline indivisa. The last-mentioned plant I have seen on no other mountain nearer the Thames than Pirongia; but I am informed by the Maoris that it is plentiful on Te Aroha Mountain, and that many a battle was fought between the natives at Te Aroha and other tribes who desired this plant to make from it their war mats.
The most southern peak examined was Pakirarahi, which is a trig. station at the head of a tributary of the Tairua River. It abounds in plants that appear on Kaitarakihi only as stragglers from it. These plants are Melicytus lanceolatus, Olea montana, Gaultheria rupestris, and Dracophyllum strictum.
Melicytus lanceolatus is as common on the sides of this mountain as Coprosma fœtidissima on the sides of Kaitarakihi.
The rarest plant on the mountain is Pimelea buxifolia which was found in one place only, and that was on the summit of some immense rocks that form curious archways and buttresses on a ridge leading to the trig. station.
I traversed every ridge in the neighbourhood of the peak for other plants, but found none.
The Tairua diggings, now deserted, are situated at the foot of this mountain, and there is a plant that grows so plentifully in the clearings and along the pack-track that it deserves notice. I refer to Cordyline pumilio, which, mingled with Gahnia lacera, covers hundreds of acres. This plant has a sweet root that is roasted and eaten by the natives, and resembles the root of the ti (Dracæna) of the Tahitian Islands. The Maori name for the plant is tirauriki.
I mentioned before that I desired to make comparison between the growth of vegetation on the east side with that on the west, and I thought that the succession of plants that obtained on the west side from sea-level to the summit of the dividing range, would also obtain on the east side. It appears to me, however, that there is a great distinction, and that zones of vegetation are more marked on the west than on the east side. In ascending from the west side, the ordinary ericetal plants, growing on bare hills covered chiefly with Leptospermum scoparium and Pteris aquilina, are succeeded by taua, rata, rimu, hinau, and tawhero, which give place at a height of 1,700 feet to Quintinia, Ixerba, kauri, and Gahnia. But on the east side there is no such well-marked distinction, for the mountain plants
descend very much nearer the sea-level, so that some of those that can be found only at elevations of 1,800 or 2,000 feet on the Thames side are found as low down as 500 feet from the sea-level near Tairua sawmills.
The country round the sawmills is a painful scene of widespread desolation; as the large timber is not only cleared away, but the undergrowth is annually burnt. There is, however, one exception along the course of the Pepe Creek, and here I found Quintinia serrata, Panax discolor, Panax simplex, Phyllocladus glauca, and Loxsoma cunnighamii, at an elevation of not more than 500 feet. Far greater havoc is made of the forests on the Tairua side than on the Thames, which may be partly owing to the nature of the soil; but it is, however, certain that for sixteen miles, along the Tairua River from the sawmills, the desolate appearance of the country is very distressing. This desolation will be much increased when the kauri forests, near the Tairua diggings, are cut down. The traveller will then be able to look from Pakirarahi over all the country to the east coast, which will then be the most ruined and disfigured part of New Zealand. Faciunt solitudinem et cultum appellant.
In addition to the exploration of the main range I have paid a good deal of attention to orchids; and as these plants have on the whole very short seasons, it may not be unprofitable to put in a connected form the months in which they bloom in the Thames district.
This is the more easy, as the different species appear from month to month throughout the year with such regularity as to form a kind of floral calendar by their successive appearance in flower.
The botanical year may be said to commence in June, when Acianthus sinclairii comes into flower. It first appears on the hill-sides in the bush near tufts of Astelia, where there is rich mould. A week later Pterostylis trullifolia is in full flower in rocky places on patches of moss. This is a common plant in damp places on the sides of fern hills.
During the last week in June Corysanthes rivularis begins to appear in damp places near the foot of forest hills, and later, along the banks of mountain streams. All these orchids continue through the month of July.
In August Corysanthes macrantha, C. oblonga and C. triloba can be found in flower. They affect high ground on the borders of heavy bush-land and grow best in rich black mould. Their purple flowers are warnings that the rarest orchids are about to appear and may disappear also in the same month of September. The rare orchids are Cyrtostylis oblonga, Pterostylis puberula and Pterostylis squamata. They all grow on low hills covered with fern (Pteris aquilina) and tea-tree (Leptospermum scoparium), but are not equally abundant.
There are at least fifty plants of the two first-mentioned to one of Pterostylis squamata. This plant grows amongst tea-tree (Leptospermum scoparium) and always near the summit of low hills.
Very few of the flowers come to maturity, as they are destroyed by minute insects before the flowers open. Another enemy to it is fire, as the vegetation is annually burnt off the hills where it grows. This year I could find it only in those places that escaped the fire last year; and as its extinction is not improbable, I enclose a painting of it in full bloom.
Whilst these are in bloom on the bare hills, Pterostylis graminea is in flower on the ridges of steep bush-land hills.
In the beginning of October Pterostylis banksii begins to flower in the woods whilst Thelymitra imberbis and Caladenia minor have taken the place of Pterostylis puberula and Cyrtostylis oblonga on the low hills.
Towards the end of the month Thelymitra longifolia is also in flower, and Chiloglottis cornuta is found on steep ridges where no bush fires have been.
The commonest orchids appear in November. They are Microtis porrifolia and Orthoceras solandri. These plants, together with Thelymitra longifolia, are so abundant on some hillsides near native settlements that pigs turn over the soil in large patches for the sake of getting at the tubers. Sarchochilus adversus that blooms in the same month and grows on the boles of trees is not by any means common.
These plants with Bolbophyllum pygmæum flourish through the month of December.
The orchids of January are Gastrodia cunninghamii and Thelymitra pulchella. The former though a large plant is extremely difficult to see, and the latter I found only once, and that near the summit of Pakirarahi.
Earina autumnalis begins to flower in February, and can be found in flower for a couple of months.
The last orchid of the year that I found was Prasophyllum pumilum. It flowers in the middle of March, and is not only rare but also easily overlooked in the low tea-tree where it grows.
My collection of orchids at the Thames numbers twenty-seven, and the whole number peculiar to New Zealand is forty. I do not include in this number Adenochilus gracilis, for although it appears in Mr. Kirk's list I have not been able to find it here.
I have been equally unsuccessful in the search for Dracophyllum traversii, Lomaria vulcanica and Dactylanthus sp. My friend Mr. Cheeseman, F.L.S., who knows the district well, has not been more successful in his search for these plants, although he has made a very large addition to Mr. Kirk's list. I have to thank him for the valuable assistance he has given me in the progress of my researches, and I believe he takes as much interest in my collection as I do myself.
The following are some of the most interesting plants in the list appended to this paper:—
Veronica pubescens.—A shrub 1 ½–2 feet high, covered in all its parts with a soft white pubescence. It closely resembles V. salicifolia, and indeed an intermediate plant grows on Shoe Island, Tairua, and also near Paoraka, Thames. This plant has not been collected since the time of Banks and Solander.
It grows on precipitous rocks on the sea side of Paku at the mouth of the Tairua river.
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Rhabdothamnus sp.—This plant differs much in habit from R. solandri. It is a straggling shrub, 7–8 feet high, with long, straight, brittle, fastigiate branches. Branches, leaves, and twigs very hirsute. Leaves 1 ¾–2 inches long and 1 ½ inches broad, orbicular. Flowers large, peduncles ½ inch, sepals 1/3 inch, corolla 1 inch. Capsule ovoid, longer than the calyx. Mr. Cheeseman considers it a variety of R. solandri, but I think he admits the distinction as great between the plants named as between Veronica salicifolia and V. macrocarpa. The plant was found on Shoe Island, Tairua.
Quintinia elliptica.—This plant is found near the summit of Pakirarahi, but I agree with Mr. Cheeseman that there is no specific distinction between it and Q. serrata.
Fagus menziesii.—I was surprised to find this plant abundant on the secondary range near Puriri Springs. The leaves differ slightly from the South Island specimens. Flowers and fruit not seen.
Pimelea buxifolia.—This is another plant from Pakirarahi. It agrees exactly with the description in the “Handbook of Zew Zealand Botany,” except in the height. The few specimens seen were not more than 2 feet high.
Marattia fraxinea.—It is curious how this plant should have so long escaped observation; as there is a large number of plants, though local, in the Tararu Creek, near the base of a look-out rock. The Maoris say it is found at Kuitarakihi, and on the Pepe near Tairua. They were accustomed not only to eat the subaerial rhizomes, but also to plant them in suitable places in the bush.
There is no exaggeration in saying that the forests within six miles of Thames are rapidly disappearing, and many plants, formerly common, are now become extinct. As an example I may mention Fagus fusca which Mr. Kirk speaks of as plentiful, but at present there is not a specimen nearer than Puru Creek. Several other plants, as Parietaria debilis and Hoheria populnea, are extremely rare.
The whole number of plants in Mr. Kirk's list is 397, and in the list appended there are 90 additional, so that the number growing in the Thames District is 487. This number of plants makes the district compare favourably in point of variety of vegetation with any other district in New Zealand of like area and elevation.
Additions to Mr. Kirk's Catalogue of Flowering Plants and Ferns in the Thames District.
Clematis hexasepala, DC. Kaueranga Valley.
Ranunculus acaulis, Banks and Sol. Sandy places near brackish water.
Melicytus macrophyllus, A. Cunn. Shoe Island, Tairua.
" lanceolatus, Hook. f. Pakirarahi.
Melicope mantelli. Kerikeri Ranges.
Pennantia corymbosa, Forst. Table Mountain.
Quintinia elliptica, Hook. f. Pakirarahi.
Drosera spathulata, Labill. Kerikeri Swamps.
" binata, Labill. Kerikeri Swamps.
Myriophyllum elatinoides, Gaudichaud. Kopu.
" variæfolium, Hook. f. Kopu.
Epilobium rotundifolium, Forst. Puriri.
Tetragonia expansa, Murray. Sandy places near the sea shore.
Hydrocotyle americana, Linn. Waikiekie Creek.
" pterocarpa, F. Muel. Kerikeri Ranges.
" novæ-zealandiæ, DC. Pakirarahi.
" moschata, Br. Kerikeri Ranges.
Crantzia lineata, Mitt. Piako Towers.
Angelica rosæfolia, Hook. Paku, Tairua.
Panax anomalum, Hook. Look-out Rocks.
" simplex, Forst. Pepe, Tairua.
" sinclairii, Hook. Kaitarakihi.
Loranthus adamsii. Hape Creek.
Coprosma petiolata, Hook. Tairua landing.
" rhamnoides, A. Cunn. Kaueranga.
" fœtidissima, Forst. Kaitarakihi.
" colensoi, Hook. f. "
" acerosa, A. Cunn. Tairua.
Galium tenuicaule, A. Cunn. Kopu.
Cassinia leptophylla, Br. Tairua.
Senecio myrianthos. Kaueranga.
Dracophyllum strictum, Hook. f. Main Range.
" urvilleanum, A. Rich. Look-out Rocks.
Sapota costata, A. DC. Paku, Tairua.
Olea montana, Hook. f. Pakirarahi.
Parsonsia rosea, Raoul. Look-out Rocks.
Mimulus repens, Br. Piako Towers.
Mazus pumilis, Br.
Gratiola peruviana, A. Cunn. Kopu.
Veronica pubescens, Banks and Sol. Paku, Tairua.
Veronica sp. Shoe Island, Tairua.
Rhabdothamnus sp. Shoe Island, Tairua.
Chenopodium ambrosioides, Linn. Sandy places near the sea shore.
Atriplex patula, Linn. Salt marshes.
Suæda maritima, Dumortier. Sandy places near the sea shore.
Salsola australis, Br. Sandy places near the sea shore.
Scleranthus biflorus, Hook. f. Paku, Tairua.
Pimelea buxifolia, Hook. f. Pakirarahi.
" urvilleana, A. Rich. Paku.
Fagus menziesii, Hook. f. Puriri.
Dendrobium cunninghamii, Lindl. Look-out Rocks.
Gastrodia cunninghamii, Hook. f. Kaueranga.
Cyrtostylis oblonga, Hook. f. Kerikeri Ranges.
Corysanthes oblonga, Hook. f. Tararu Creek.
" rotundifolia, Hook. f. Tararu Creek.
Caladenia minor, Hook. f. Kerikeri.
Chiloglottis cornuta, Hook. f. Kerikeri Ranges.
Pterostylis graminea, Hook. f. Wooded ranges.
" puberula, Hook. f. Kerikeri.
" squamata, Brown. Kerikeri.
Thelymitra imberbis, Hook. f. Kerikeri.
" pulchella, Hook. f. Pakirarahi.
Prasophyllum pumilum, Hook. f. Kerikeri.
Sparganium simplex, Huds. Puriri.
Potamogeton natans, Linn. Kopu.
Astelia insignis. Table Mountain.
Juncus australis, Hook. f. Pakirarahi.
Cyperus ustulatus, A. Rich. Swamps.
Scirpus maritimus, Linn. Kopu.
Lepidosperma australe, Labill. Kerikeri, low hills.
" concava, Br. " "
Gahnia hectori, Look-out Rocks.
" arenaria, Hook. f. Kerikeri.
Uncinia cæspitosa, Boott. Shoe Island, Tairua.
Carex dissita, Sol. Karaka Creek.
" gaudichaudiana, Kunth. Tairua landing.
Hierochloe redolens, Br. Kerikeri.
Zoysia pungens, Will. Puru.
Glyceria stricta, Hook. f. Piako Towers.
Gymnostichum gracile, Hook. f. Piako Towers.
Gleichenia dicarpa, Br. Table Mountain.
Adiantum æthiopicum, Linn. Kopu.
Lindsæa viridis, Tararu Creek.
Aspidium aculeatum, Swartz. Kaueranga.
" capense. Kaueranga.
Nothochlæna distans, Br. Kaueranga.
Schizæa dichotoma, Swartz. Pepe, Tairua.
Marattia fraxinea, Smith. Tararu Creek.
Phylloglossum drummondii, Kunze. Kerikeri.
Azolla rubra, Br. Kopu.