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Volume 76, 1946-47
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Notes on the Indigenous Vegetation at the Head of the Maruia River and Ada Pass, with Lists of Species.

[Read before Canterbury Branch, July 4, 1945; received by the Editor, July 16, 1945.]
By W. B. Brockie,
Botanic Gardens, Christchurch.

Early in January, 1945, Mr. H. Talbot and I left the passenger bus at Lewis Pass, and in drenching rain ascended the Maruia River, through Cannibal Gorge, to Ada Pass, in the Spenser Mountains, where we camped for the best part of five days. According to Travers (1873) it was through Ada Pass that the Maoris of Kaikoura and Amuri sometimes sent war parties to the West Coast to raid the Native settlements in that district, to return with slaves and laden with plundered greenstone and greenstone weapons. In December, 1910, the late Mr. R. M. Laing and his party, proceeding from the eastern side of the Spenser Mountains, visited Ada Pass, and the species noted by him at the head of the Ada Saddle are included in the list of species in his paper (1911).

The western side of the Ada Saddle is a broad, flattish bottomed valley, largely sphagnum bog, about three-quarters of a mile in length, rising in a gentle incline from the bed of the Maruia River. We examined nearly all of this open ground and also the forest margins, and the species listed below and noted by us in this area are additional to the species contained in Mr. Laing's list. It may be worth recording that a few plants of Mazus radicans bearing peloric, purple flowers, were seen near to the Maruia River; normal flowers on these plants had the upper lip wholly purple, as were the flowers of some other specimens without peloric flowers. The flowers of most plants, however, had the normal purple markings at the base of the upper lip.

Mr. Talbot specialised in collecting Gramineae, Cyperaceae, and Juncaceae. Without his assistance and the kindly collaboration of Dr. H. H. Allan in identifying his specimens, these families would have been poorly represented in the following lists.

List of Species and Varieties at Ada Pass Additional to those contained in Mr. R. M. Laing's list (1911, 68 t. 75).


  • Polystichum vestitum (Swartz.) Presl.; forest margin.

  • Blechnum fluviatile (R. Br.) Salom.; forest.

  • Hypolepis millefolium Hook.; forest and grassy places.


  • Deyeuxia filiformis (Forst.) Hook.

  • Trisetum cheesemanii Hack.

  • Danthonia cunninghamii Hook. f.

  • D. gracilis Hook. var. nigricans (Petrie) Zotov.

  • D. setifolia (Hook. f.) Ckn.

  • Poa pusilla Berggr.

  • P. kirkii Buch. var. dipsacea (Petric) Zotov.

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  • Scirpus aucklandicus (Hook.) Boeck.

  • S. aucklandicus (Hook.) Boeck. var. subcullata (Berggr.) C. B. Clarke.

  • S. cernuus Vahl.

  • Uncinia compacta R. Br.

  • U. riparia R. Br.

  • U. filiformis Boott.

  • Carex kaloides Petrie.

  • C. gaudichaudiana Kunth. var. humilior Kukenth.

  • C. wakatipu Petrie.

  • C. comans Berggr.; Maruia Valley.

  • C. dissita Sol.; Maruia Valley.


  • Gaimardia setacea Hook. f.; bog.

  • G. ciliata Hook. f.; bog.


  • Rumex flexuosus Sol. ex Forst.; marshy ground.

  • Muehlenbeckia axillaris Walp.; riverbed.


  • Drosera spathulata Lab.; peat bog.


  • Geum parviflorum Sm.; grassy places.


  • Geranium sessiliflorum Cav. var. glabrum Kunth; grassy places.


  • Viola filicaulis Hook. f.; forest margin.


  • Haloragis uniflora T. Kirk; grassy places.

  • H. micrantha R. Br.; boggy places.


  • Schizeilema haastii (Hook.) Domin. var. cyanopetalum Domin.; grassy places.


  • Cyathodes pumila Hook. f.; boggy ground.

  • Dracophyllum palustre Ckn.; Mr. Laing, in his description of the Sphagnum bog at the head of the Ada Saddle (1911, 64), mentions this under the name of D. uniflorum.


  • Suttonia nummularia Hook. f.; low scrub.


  • Gentiana serotina Skn.; boggy ground.


  • Hebe traversii (Hook. f.) Ckn. et Allan; scrub.

  • H. vernicosa (Hook. f.) var. gracilis (Cheesem.) Ckn. et Allan; scrub.

  • Euphrasia revoluta Hook. f.; grassy places.


  • Utricularia monanthos Hook. f.; lilac flowers, peat bog.


  • Coprosma pseudocuneata W. R. Oliv.; scrub.

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  • Nertera depressa Banks et Sol. ex Gaertn.; bog.

  • N. dichondraefolia (A. Cunn.) Hook. f.; forest.


  • Oreostylidium subulatum (Hook. f.) Berggr.; Sphagnum bog.


  • Lagenophora cuneata Petrie; forest.

  • Olearia lacunosa Hook. f.; forest.

  • Celmisia glandulosa Hook. f.; boggy ground.

  • Gnaphalium traversii Hook. f.; grassy places.

  • Abrotanella caespitosa Petrie ex T. Kirk; boggy ground.

  • Traversia baccharoides Hook. f.; forest margin.

Head of Maruia River.

We examined the alpine valley above the Nothofagus forest at the head of the Maruia River on two successive days which were calm and sunny. At an elevation of about 4,500 feet the floor of the valley, which faces south-west, flattens out above a steep, scrub-covered slope. This upper portion of the valley is divided transversely into three benches or basins by two high terrace-like formations composed of solid rock. A few small tarns are dotted about in the middle basin between these two rock formations. The higher basin shows clear evidence of former glaciation. It contains a deep, pear-shaped lake which I estimated to be approximately 400 yards long and about 150 yards across at its widest part. This lake is not shown on any available map. Large slabs of floating snow covered three-quarters of its surface, and snow slopes all around projected into the water. At the narrow and shallower end of the lake, near to its outlet, the snow slope on the eastern side descends directly from solid rock walls. Here the river flows from the lake through a deep cleft in the lip of the basin. The outlet was covered by a snow bridge. At the head of the lake is a cirque of shingle slips, which were largely snow-covered.

Our survey included the slopes and the entire length of the rocky crest of the mountain spur flanking the eastern side of the river and also the lower alpine portion of the spur on the western side. The highest altitude reached was 6,775 feet.

The rock-strewn floors of the lower and middle basins support a continuous plant covering—a herbfield association consisting of the majority of the species listed below. On the adjoining lower slopes Danthonia flavescens is the dominant species. A search among this tussock grass on the western side of the valley revealed a considerable number of plants of Anemone tenuicaulis. Higher up, on the eastern side, Danthonia australis and Celmisia discolor in association cover an extensive area; there appears to be intense competition between these two species, for seldom does their foliage intermix and each plant seems to jealously preserve for itself the patch of ground it has succeeded in occupying.

On the rocky crest of the eastern spur and on shingly slopes and fellfield descending therefrom, 55 species were noted. Of these, 16 were not found elsewhere in the area examined. In sequence as they were found these 16 species are: Hebe ciliolata, Anisotome imbricata, Celmisia viscosa, Notothlaspi australe, Raoulia bryoides, Haastia pulvinaris, Luzula colensoi, Pygmaea pulvinaris, Cotula pyrethrifolia,

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Polystichum cystostegium, Raoulia eximia, Colobanthus acicularis, Veronica cheesemanii, Haastia sinclairii, Raoulia subulata, and Hebe haastii var. macrocalyx. From that point of the spur where it joins with the high ridge of the Spenser Mountains Haastia pulvinaris was seen in abundance on rocky faces nearby.

In wet ground near to the small tarns mentioned above, a Ranunculus with trifoliate leaves about an inch in diameter at most, and 1-flowered scapes, was found, and this is listed as a new species. I found this Ranunculus also at Lake Man, in the mountains above Amuri Pass a few years ago. Dr. H. H. Allan, to whom I sent specimens, thinks it is an undescribed species related to R. lappaceus.

The only similar high mountain area in the Spenser Mountains examined by Mr. Laing was at the head of the Clarence River on Mt. Princess twelve miles away. Because of this considerable distance separating the two localities, and moreover because hitherto nothing has been published to indicate the nature and composition of the alpine plant association in the district it is thought desirable to list all of the species noted by us on this high southern portion of the range. The list contains 135 species and varieties spread over 77 genera and belonging to 32 families. Species that are not in Mr. Laing's list are marked with an asterisk.

List of Species Noted at the Head of the Maruia River.
(1) Pteridophyta.


  • *Polystichum vestitum (Swartz.) Presl.; among low scrub and grass.

  • *P. cystostegium (Hook.) J. B. Armst.; loose rocks.

  • Blechnum penna-marina (Poir.) Kuhn.

  • *Hypolepis millefolium Hook.; herbfield.

  • *Histiopteris incisa (Thunb.) J. Smith; grassy places.

  • Polypodium billardieri (Willd.) C. Christen. var. pumilum (Armst.) Cheesem.; rock faces.


  • *Lycopodium selago Linn.; rocky ground.

  • L. fastigiatum R. Br.; herbfield.

(2) Spermatophyta.


  • Podocarpus nivalis Hook.; fellfield.


  • Hierochloe alpina (Sw. ex Willd.) Roem. et Schutz.

  • Danthonia flavescens Hook. f.

  • D. australis Buch.

  • *D. gracilis Hook. var. nigricans (Petric) Zotov.

  • *D. setifolia (Hook. f.) Ckn.

  • *Poa novaezealandiae Hack.

  • P. colensoi Hook. f.

  • P. kirkii Buch.


  • Carpha alpina R. Br.; herbfield.

  • Schoenus pauciflorus Hook. f.; herbfield.

  • Oreobolus pectinatus Hook. f.; herbfield.

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  • Rostkovia gracilis Hook. f.

  • *Juncus antarcticus Hook. f.

  • *Luzula colensoi Hook. f.

  • *L. pumila Hook. f.

  • L. campestris D. C.


  • *Astelia linearis Hook. f.; moist ground.

  • A. cockaynei Cheesem.; grassy hillside.

  • *A. petriei Ckn.; wet, grassy hillside.

  • Phormium colensoi Hook. f.; subalpine scrub.


  • *Corysanthes rotundifolia Hook. f.; wet, shady places.


  • *Stellaria parviflora Banks et Sol.; stony places among grass.

  • Colobanthus acicularis Hook. f.; rocky ground.


  • *Anemone tenuicaulis (Cheesem.) Parkin. et Sledge.; Danthonia steppe.

  • Ranunculus monroi Hook. f. var. dentatus T. Kirk; herbfield.

  • R. sinclairii Hook. f.; herbfield.

  • R. hirtus Banks et Sol.; grassy places near forest margin.

  • *R. sp. nov., allied to R. lappaceus (Dr. H. H. Allan); wet herbfield only.

  • R. foliosus T. Kirk; herbfield.

  • *Caltha obtusa Cheesem.; herbfield.


  • Cardamine heterophylla (Forst. f.) Schutz.; herbfield.

  • C. heterophylla (Forst. f.) Schultz. var. uniflora Hook. f.; herb-field.

  • Notothlaspi australe Hook. f.; fine rock debris on crest of spur.


  • Drosera arcturi Hook.; moist herbfield.


  • *Geum parviflorum Sm.; herbfield.

  • *G. uniflorum Buch.; moist herbfield.

  • Acaena sanguisorbae Vahl.; herbfield.

  • A. microphylla Hook. f.; stony places among grass.


  • Geranium microphyllum Hook. f.; grassy places.


  • Oxalis lactea Hook.; herbfield.


  • Aristotelia fruticosa Hook. f.; near forest margin.


  • Viola cunninghamii Hook. f.; herbfield.

  • *Hymenanthera dentata R. Br. var. alpina T. Kirk; fellfield.


  • *Drapetes dieffenbachii Hook.; fellfield.


  • Epilobium linnaeoides Hook. f.; herbfield.

  • *E. pedunculare A. Cunn. var. brunnescens Ckn.; herbfield.

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  • E. macropus Hook.; herbfield.

  • E. glabellum Forst.; herbfield.


  • *Nothopanax colensoi (Hook. f.) Sm.; near forest margin.


  • Hydrocotyle novaezealandiae D. C.; herbfield.

  • Schizeilema pallidum (T. Kirk) Domin.; herbfield.

  • *S. haastii (Hook. f.) Domin. var. cyanopetalum Domin.; herbfield.

  • Aciphylla colensoi Hook. f.; herbfield.

  • A. monroi Hook. f.; herbfield.

  • Anisotome haastii (F. Muell.) Ckn. et Laing; herbfield.

  • A. filifolia (Hook. f.) Ckn. et Laing; herbfield.

  • A. pilifera (Hook. f.) Ckn. et Laing; rocky ground.

  • A. aromatica Hook. f.; herbfield.

  • A. imbricata (Hook. f.) Laing; fellfield.

  • Angelica montana (Forst.) Ckn.; rocky ground.


  • *Gaultheria depressa Hook. f.; herbfield.

  • G. rupestris R. Br.; herbfield.


  • Pentachondra pumila (Forst. f.) R. Br.; fellfield.

  • *Cyathodes pumila Hook. f.; herbfield.

  • Dracophyllum uniflorum Hook. f.; herbfield.


  • *Suttonia nummularia Hook. f.; herbfield.


  • *Gentiana montana Forst. f.; Danthonia steppe.

  • G. bellidifolia Hook. f.; herbfield.


  • *Myosotis pygmaea Col.; herbfield.


  • Mazus radicans (Hook. f.) Cheesem.; herbfield.

  • *Hebe traversii (Hook. f.) Ckn. et Allan; near forest margin.

  • *H. vernicosa (Hook. f.) var. gracilis (Cheesem.) Ckn. et Allan; near forest margin.

  • H. buxifolia (Benth.) Ckn. et Allan; near forest margin.

  • H. ciliolata (Hook. f.) Ckn. et Allan; rocky ground.

  • H. lycopodioides (Hook. f.) Ckn. et Allan var. patula Simpson; Danthonia steppe.

  • *H. haastii (Hook. f.) var. macrocalyx (Cheesem.) Ckn. et Allan; among rocks at crest of mountain spur.

  • *Pygmaea pulvinaris Hook. f.; rocky ground at crest of mountain spur.

  • *Veronica cheesemanii Benth.; among fine rock debris at crest of mountain spur.

  • Ourisia crosbyi Ckn.; herbfield.

  • *O. sessilifolia Hook. f.; moist slopes.

  • Euphrasia monroi Hook. f.; fellfield.

  • *E. revoluta Hook. f.; herbfield.


  • Plantago brownii Rapin.; herbfield.

  • *P. triandra Berggr.; herbfield.

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  • *Coprosma pseudocuneata W. R. Oliv.; small-leaved form; Danthonia steppe.

  • C. pumila Hook. f.; herbfield.

  • Galium umbrosum Sol. ex Forst.; grassy places.


  • Pratia angulata (Forst. f.) Hook. f.; herbfield.

  • P. macrodon Hook. f.; fellfield.

  • *Wahlenbergia albomarginata Hook.; herbfield.


  • Phyllachne clavigera F. Muell.; fellfield.

  • *Forstera sedifolia Linn. f.; fellfield.

  • F. bidwillii Hook. f.; herbfield.


  • Brachycome sinclairii Hook. f.; herbfield.

  • *Olearia nummularifolia Hook. f.; Danthonia steppe.

  • Celmisia discolor Hook. f.; fellfield.

  • C. incana Hook. f.; fellfield.

  • *C. haastii Hook. f.; moist herbfield.

  • C. petiolata Hook. f. var. membranacea T. Kirk; herbfield.

  • C. spectabilis Hook. f.; herbfield.

  • C. viscosa Hook. f.; fellfield.

  • C. coriacea (Forst. f.) Hook. f.; Danthonia steppe.

  • C. alpina (T. Kirk) Cheesem.; herbfield

  • C. laricifolia Hook. f.; fellfield.

  • C. sessiliflora Hook. f.; fellfield.

  • *C. glandulosa Hook. f.; wet herbfield.

  • Haastia pulvinaris Hook. f.; among broken rock at crest of mountain spur.

  • *H. sinclairii Hook. f.; shingle slips.

  • Gnaphalium traversii Hook. f.; only one plant seen on rock debris.

  • *Raoulia subulata Hook. f.; fine rock debris.

  • R. eximia Hook. f.; rock faces at crest of mountain spur.

  • R. bryoides Hook. f.; rock faces at crest of mountain spur.

  • R. grandiflora Hook. f.; fellfield.

  • Leucogenes grandiceps (Hook. f.) Beauv.; rocky faces.

  • Helichrysum bellidioides (Forst. f.) Willd.; herbfield.

  • Craspedia uniflora Forst. f.; herbfield.

  • *Cotula pyrethrifolia Hook. f.; rock debris slopes.

  • C. squalida Hook. f.; herbfield.

  • *Abrotanella caespitosa Petrie ex T. Kirk; wet herbfield.

  • Erechtites glabrescens T. Kirk; near forest margin.

  • Senecio bellidioides Hook. f.; herbfield.

  • S. lyallii Hook. f.; herbfield.

  • S. scorzoneroides Hook. f.; rocky faces.

  • S. bidwillii Hook. f.; sheltered places in herbfield.

  • Microseris scapigera (Forst. f.) O. Hoffm.; herbfield.

  • Taraxacum magellanicum Comm.; rock debris.


Laing, R. M., 1911. Some Notes on the Botany of the Spenser Mountains, with a List of the Species Collected. Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. 44, pp. 6075.

Travers, W. T. L., 1873. The Life and Times of Te Rauparaha. Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. 5, p. 73.