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Native Plants U-Z

Posted by SCe Comments Off on Native Plants U-Z

Ureure Glasswort

Sarcocornia quinqueflora family Amaranthaceae

Ureure (right) growing near Taitomo Island, Horokaka on the left, 2007

You’ll find this low-growing succulent close to the shore, growing on rocks. In other locations it grows on shell banks and in salt marshes.

It can form large mats and has short fleshy stems that point upwards, which are dull green but can be red-tipped if the plant is growing in the sun. It appears leafless but if you put it under the magnifier there are tiny translucent leaves that are fused together around the stems.

They flower in summer and autumn, but once again, you need to look hard to find the flowers as they are hidden in joints in the stem.

The fleshy stems are full of water and salt. This is because a lot of salt lands on the stems due to its proximity to the sea, and if there wasn’t a high concentration of salt within, the plants water supply would be drawn out of its leaves by osmosis. The waxy leaves encourage salt spray to rung off, the residue is washed off by rain. Very clever!

The plant can survive immersion in the sea when the tide comes in.

The fleshy stems are edible and can be used in salads or cooked lightly. They are even sold in some European countries and used in restaurant dishes.


Peperomia urvilleana family Piperaceae

Wharanui on cliff face in Nikau Glade, January 2011

D’Urville’s Peperomia is found often deep in the shade of the forest scrambling on rocks and cliffs, hence it is rather hard to photograph.

It is a herb with bright green fleshy leaves and is more like a succulent. Laing and Blackwell describe it as “juicy”. Andrew Crowe explains that if you cut through a leaf you will find a transparent layer on the top that stores water. It is low growing and tends to hang down a rock but with the leaves and flower stalks pointing upwards. I have also seen in on the Nikau Glade growing on tree trunks.

The flower spikes or catkins are slender, pale green and erect and appear all year. Small black seeds appear along the stems. These are covered with a sticky material that adheres to any animal or bird that rbushes against it and thus is trasnferred to the new growing location. Wharanui is in the same family as kawakawa and the black pepper we used as a condiment.

Peperomia grows all over New Zealand and its name commemorates the French explorer Dumont d’Urville.

Whau or corkwood

Entelea arborescens family Tiliaceae

Attractive whau flowers

Whau is a fast-growing tree that occurs in coastal and lowland forest down as far as Raglan and the Bay of Plenty area. It has attractive white flowers which smother the tree, very large heart-shaped bright green soft leaves, and very distinctive seed capsules that in summer clothe the tree in green then brown prickly clusters of pods. A whau in bloom or covered in pods is a very attractive sight. Unfortunately, it is becoming rare in the wild.

Laing and Blackwell say that because the genus is confined to NZ and it is the only species, it can be regarded as a peculiarly NZ plant.

Spiky whau seed pods, Garden Road, January 2011

The whau can grow as many as three metres in a year and its spreading habit make a good plant to quickly provide a canopy and shade the ground. It has recently been extensively used by the New Zealand Transport Authority for its magnificent plantings of natives in Auckland’s spaghetti junction motorway network. The disadvantage of whau is that the tree can be short-lived, usually no more than ten years. As it matures it tends to open out and look rather straggly. However, it seeds profusely – up to a million a year – and the seeds germinate readily. Consequently, it is an easy seed to gather – just shake them out of the pods and it can be easily grown in seed trays.

Whau likes to grow in a warm corner – there used to be a wonderful specimen in a sheltered gully along the Tasman Lookout Track, and this was a typical location.

The wood of whau was used by Maori to build rafts and for fishing floats as it is very light and therefore floats well. Pakeha settlers also used it like cork, so its common name corkwood. JT Salmon says it is possibly the lightest wood in the world as it is half the weight of cork.

Wiwi or Knobby Clubrush

Facinia nodosa family Cyperacea

Wiwi at The Gap, January 2011

A rush-like plant that is actually a leafless sedge, wiwi is a commons sight growing in clumps in open situations close to the sea, often in moist or swampy ground. The ones in this photo were actually on a sandy dune at The Gap. Nearby, there were clumps growing on the cliff and this is also typical.  It can grow up to 700 m.

It has long stiff wire-like stems, that can bend over in the top third in especially lush growth. It flowers September to December and has small round clusters of brown seed heads in November to May.

Club-like seed head from plants at The Gap.

These emerge from one side of the stem near the top. You can see why the common name is “clubrush” as they have a distinctively club-like appearance.

It can be grown from seed or clumps divided.

Facinia nodosa is also know as Scirpus nodosa and Isolepsis nodosa.

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