Plenty of sunshine and warm spring conditions meant we had an excellent day with our group of volunteers who came along to help with our latest Totara seedling rescue operation!
With such a beautiful day to be out amongst the trees here at the Ecosanctuary site, and the small but might army of volunteers, we were able to not only rescue one species with our incredible Totara, but also precious Kahikatea seedlings - we can’t say a big enough thank you to everyone who came along to help out, lending not only their seedling spotting abilities but generous knowledge of our New Zealand native biodiversity!
Our programme of Totara (Podocarpus totara) rescue has been running since 2015. Totara take over 100 years to reach maturity, growing to approximately 30 metres tall, and living for over 1000 years - making them one of the longest living tree species in New Zealand’s forests.
Point Bush Ecosanctuary has pockets of mature Totara trees (who could be anywhere around 1000 years old!) that survived the great fire of 1878 which destroyed most of the native bush around Waimate and on the Hunters Hills. These ancient trees have provided hundreds of years of seeds that have slowly been growing on the forest floor here at Point Bush.
We have been gradually rescuing these mini Totaras in order to give them a fighting chance of survival - where they were found they had been growing under dense forest canopy meaning they would most likely have been outgunned for light, nutrients, space and security.
In addition to our mighty Totara, we also are fortunate to have some incredible specimens of Kahikatea (Dacrycarpus dacrydioides) which could also be anywhere around 1000 years old. These enormous ancient trees have also survived the great fire of 1878 alongside the Totara, and are located in the pockets of flowing water we have at the Ecosanctuary site.
Kahikatea are the tallest tree species in the New Zealand forest, and are so ancient that they evolved without flowers, and only produce bright orange tiny berries. Before these trees were milled to near extinction, they were commonly found in wet and swampy ground.
Ancient mature Kahikatea here at Point Bush Ecosanctuary (above) and their seedlings (below) being safely transferred to where they can mature, before they will be replanted in a suitable place where they can grow and flourish to maturity over the next 1000 years here at Point Bush.
Where the seedlings are currently found they are at risk of being out-competed by other fast growing plant species, crushed where they are found on the edges of walking tracks, or potentially at risk from pest animals such as Wallaby. By rescuing the Kahikatea seedlings that have bravely survived and seeded on their own so far we are guaranteeing the future existence of these beautiful forest giants to continue to expand their presence through the Ecosanctuary.
While all the seedlings are still young enough and small enough to successfully transplant, our wonderful team of volunteers (in the photo below) potted them individually and moved them to our secure nursery growing area.
With next years native planting programme fast approaching, we are so excited to have a thriving collection of these incredibly old trees - and to have been able to use seedlings from the mature trees on site is even more special - and can't wait to get them safely replanted in 2020 and beyond.
Rose is a Trustee of Point Bush Ecosanctuary. When she isn't writing from her beach side home in the Waitaki, she can be found behind the camera lens at the Ecosanctuary, so make sure to say hello! You can connect with Point Bush on Facebook and Instagram to see more photos and behind the scenes snippets.