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Volume 43, 1910
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[Read before the Auckland Institute, 22nd November, 1910]

The County of Mangonui is situated in the extreme north of the Auckland Provincial District. It lies between 34°20′ and 35°20′ south latitude, and consists of a long narrow peninsula stretching north-west known as the North Cape Peninsula, and a southern portion more or less oblong in shape. the peninsula is about fifty miles in length, and from five to ten miles across. The lower portion is about forty miles from east to west, and averages about sixteen miles from north to south.

“The first person to explore the district from a natural-history point of view was the veteran botanist Mr. Colenso, who in 1839 travelled from Kaitaia northwards to Cape Maria van Diemen, and from thence to the Reinga, Spirits Bay, and the North Cape. During this journey he collected several of the plants peculiar to the district, notably Hibiscus diversifolius and Lycopodium Drummondii, the last of which has not been refound. . In 1840–41 Dr. Dieffenbach, the naturalist to the New Zealand Company, made an exploration of the country to the north of the Bay of Islands. He

[Footnote] † Since refound by Mr. H. B. Matthews.

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spent a considerable time in the North Cape Peninsula, judging from the account given in his ‘Travels in New Zealand,’ where Chapters 12 and 13 are devoted to the physical features and geology of the district. I cannot learn that he made any botanical collections therein, but the chapters quoted contain several interesting remarks upon the vegetation. In the summer of 1865–66 the district was visited by Sir James Hector…. He was accompanied by Mr. John Buchanan, who made a considerable collection of plants, which I believe was forwarded to Kew. He was the first to detect Hymenanthera latifolia, and observed several other species not previously recorded from that part of New Zealand. In April, 1867, Mr. Kirk and late Mr. Justice Gillies made a brief visit to the district between Parengarenga Harbour and Spirits Bay. Notwithstanding the lateness of the season, a few novelties were collected and much additional information obtained. Some notes on this journey will be found in the ‘Transactions of the New Zealand Institute’(vol. 1, p. 143). A list of the plants observed by Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Kirk is given in vol. 2 of the same publication (pp. 23946). So far as I am aware, these three papers comprise all that has been published on the botany of the North Cape Peninsula.”*

In the Transactions for 1896 appears a paper “On the Flora of the North Cape District” by Mr. Cheeseman, from which I have taken the foregoing paragraph. Mr. Cheeseman in his paper mentions his earliest visit to the district, in 1874, when he explored Doubtless Bay, Oruru Valley, Maungataniwha, and a portion of the east coast. In 1889 Mr. Cheeseman again paid a short visit to the district, followed in 1896 by a longer one. His itinerary shows that on this occasion he passed from Mangonui to Awanui, thence to Kaitaia and Ahipara, and thence coastwise northwards as far as the North Cape. Considering the short time available, Mr. Cheeseman was able to take note of a considerable number of plants.

Since the time of Mr. Cheeseman's visits a fair number of botanical discoveries have been made; indeed, it would be surprising if during the fourteen years that have elapsed a considerable amount of additional information as to the plant covering of the district had not been gained. As a resident in the district, and a not unsuccessful observer of nature, I am in a position to supply additional botanical information, partly from my own observations and partly from those of my friends Messrs. R. H. and H. B. Matthews and Mr. H. Bedggood. As a rule, however, these new discoveries were made in parts which were not included in Mr. Cheeseman's trip.

It is not my intention to deal with the northern portion of the county, but only with the lower part which lies south of a line through Mount Camel and Cape Karakara. This includes the southern portion of the North Cape Peninsula.

The lower section of Mangonui County has a broken coast-line on the east and north, Doubtless Bay and Rangaunu Bay being the chief openings. The west coast for many miles is unbroken until Ahipara Bay is reached. Here the coast suddenly trends towards the west to Reef Point, more generally known by the Native name of Tauroa. Here it turns south, then south-east to the Herekino River, the south-western boundary of the county.

[Footnote] * Cheeseman: “On the Flora of the North Cape District,” Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. 29, p. 333.

[Footnote] † This is really Cape Whakapouaka; there is a stream called Karikari a few miles away.

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North-west from Ahipara the coast-line consists of a range of sanddunes, consolidated and recent, on the landward side of which are smaller sand-dunes, among which are numerous small lakes and lagoons. Inland from these are extensive peat-swamps, and farther inland firmer flat land, subject to inundation during the heavy rains. From Ahipara southward the coast-line is more rocky. the Tauroa Peninsula, which terminates in Reef Point, is chiefly a series of elevated sand-dunes, rising to a height of about 700 ft. From the Tauroa Plateau radiates a fanlike series of hills towards the north and east.

The first line of hills runs parallel with the coast, at an average distance of five miles, from the Tauroa towards Awanui and Mangatete. There are two breaks in this line—the Herekino Gorge, through which run a small river and the road to Herekino; and the Kaitaia Valley, which extends towards the east, and branches into the Victoria, Takahue, and Fairburn Valleys. The highest point in this range is Taumata Mahoe (1,881 ft.). Between Kaitaia and Mangatete this high land spreads out, forming a tableland at an elevation of about 600ft. From this plateau ranges of hills run through Fairburn towards Oruru and mangonui, the highest point being Kopu Okai, commonly known as Trig. 27 (1,063 ft.), a few miles from Fairburn.

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Sketch-Map of Part of Mangonui County.
[(Scale, twelve miles to an inch.)

Eastward the county is broken but less elevated until we come to Raetea (2,436 ft.), the highest point in the county; from thence runs a range to

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Kotepu (1,762 ft.), overlooking Victoria Valley. Behind this range are the Maungataniwha Ranges, branching out from the hill of that name (1,912 ft.).

It will thus be seen that the central and southern portion of the district is very broken. High hills and deep valleys, heights almost mountainous, separated by profound gorges or deep gullies, form the chief features from a bird's-eye view. this is the forest country of the district, and here, in spite of the axes of the settler and bushman, many miles of bush-clad ranges are still to be seen.

It has been pointed out how the plants of any locality are not arranged by chance, but are found in definite combinations, called technically “plant formations,” which have come into existence in consequence of the geological history of the region, the climate, the nature of the soil, and other causes, some physical, others biological. *

If we take a bird's-eye view of this or of almost any district we find that the plant covering may be arranged into six more or less clearly defined plant formations. These are the forest, the moorland, the swamp, the lake and river, sea cliffs and beaches, and sand-dunes. In many cases, no doubt, these forms, or some of them, are more or less merged into others, but generally speaking their differences are clearly marked and the species belonging to one formation keep to their own places, though vagrant forms do at times intrude upon their neighbour's domain.

[Footnote] * “Report on a Botanical Survey of the Tongariro National Park,” L. Cockayne, Ph.D., F.L.S., &c.: Department of Lands, Wellington, 1908.