One of the trees we are planting out at Manawa Karioi this winter is Mānuka or tea tree (Leptospermum scoparium). Everyone knows of Mānuka, although it’s easily overlooked as a relatively small tree, not a forest giant, and it’s not a major species in our more notable forests. But it is one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most remarkable small tree species. Let’s take a closer look at it.
Mānuka is one of about 17 species of the Myrtaceae or myrtle family, a large family of some 3000 species of trees, shrubs and vines found mainly in tropical and warm temperate countries around the Pacific Ocean, but also including species in the West Indies and Europe. In New Zealand, myrtle family species include the pohutukawa and all the wonderful rata (Metrosideros) trees and vines, as well as Mānuka, its close relative Kānuka (Kunzia ericoides), and a few other related species. So Mānuka is in good company among its myrtle family members.
Mānuka has shortish, spiky needle-like leaves and pretty white spreading flowers. These grow in such profusion that Mānuka-covered hillsides can look as though they have a coating of snow. The withering flower reveals a broad and very hard five-valved capsule which is fire resistant. Take a close look at those capsules – they are very beautiful close-up.
Mānuka must be one of the most variable and adaptable of our native plant species. It grows in habitats from sea level to sub-alpine, can tolerate burning summers and snowy winters, arid hillsides and boggy hollows, fertile and barren soils. It is one of the first woody species to colonise landslide scars and other bare areas in the forest. You often see it on road cuttings. It grows as single trees up to more than 6 metres high, or as extensive thickets, sometimes only 20 or 30 centimetres high. This huge variety of forms is all contained within the one natural species, although many beautiful horticultural varieties have been bred, and widely admired in gardens all over the world.
Perhaps the most characteristic growth form of Mānuka is extensive thickets of often dense scrub about 3-5 meters high, sometimes forming an unbroken canopy, sometimes together with the slightly taller Kānuka. These thickets thrive for many decades until very gradually changing into more heterogeneous forest stands as new species slowly become established in the canopy. The thickets often grew up on farmland as less fertile or less accessible pastures were abandoned from extensive grazing, for example in parts of the Wairarapa and the East Coast. For farmers trying to “tame” nature, the scrub was seen as a curse, often burnt, crushed or hacked down to make way for new pasture (often no more successful than the old) or for pine plantations.
Mānuka has many uses, both in times past and now. In the past, it was an important medicinal plant for Māori; preparations from the leaves and bark were used to reduce fever, treat colds and as sedatives. In colonial times tea was truly brewed from its leaves and the very hard fragrant red wood was always highly regarded for fencing and for tool handles, and especially as a firewood fuel. But for now, Mānuka honey is the most valuable use.
A component chemical called methylglyoxal has known antibacterial properties and Mānuka honey is used externally as a wound dressing or eaten to reduce the risk of infection. There is debate about just how specific the medical benefits are, but few would deny the scrumptiousness of the honey. We can only hope that Mānuka and related species are not decimated by the newly arrived myrtle rust disease and other pathogens.
It’s ironic that the same Mānuka stands that were reviled and devastated only 20 years ago, are now valued so highly and actively managed as the food source for an industry that is seen as the saviour of many hill country districts. At Manawa Karioi Mānuka is not quite such a star, but it’s a versatile and much loved species for planting in various locations, whether on those exposed upper spurs, around boggy areas or around the beehives.
Written by Paul Blaschke.
Working bee Sunday August 20.
We depart at 1pm from the interpretation board shelter at the Tapu Te Ranga Marae carpark, signposted at the end of Danube St, Island Bay.
We will be going ahead rain or shine; wear good shoes and bring a jacket. Gloves, tools and plants are provided.
Planting will be around the beehives area, and will involve manuka and a number of locally rare shrub and small tree species. We finish planting around 3 - 3.30pm.
After planting we will go to the wharekai at the marae for tea and biscuits.
If you arrive late and can't find us, call 0221 277361.
One of the key forest canopy species in lowland coastal forest in the North Island and Marlborough Sounds is kohekohe (Dysoxylum spectabile). It's quite an unusual tree. It belongs to a genus of tropical trees from Asia, with seeds making their way here countless thousands of years ago, adapting to the cooler climate experienced here. It is usually never found more than 5km from the coast.
As Manawa Karioi is only 1.5km from the nearest coastline, kohekohe would have been one of the main canopy species, growing to 15 metres tall. The further inland you go, the fewer kohekohe you will find, and it becomes a sub-canopy species as taller trees become dominant. It often grows in association with tawa.
You can find a remnant of kohekohe/tawa forest on the southern slopes of Johnston Hill in Karori, and there is a good stand of kohekohe on the Serpentine Walk that winds up behind the Dell in the Wellington Botanic Garden. It is also found along the Kaiwharawhara stream. In south Wellington, we are aware of only one mature kohekohe in Tawatawa Reserve just over the ridge from Manawa Karioi. And there are five known old trees on the Miramar peninsula.
For most of the year kohekohe blends in with other trees, but it really stands out when it is in flower. It's one of the few trees to flower in winter, and to have flowers coming straight out of the trunk and main branches.
Flowering begins around late June in Wellington, and lasts until late August. During this time they are an important nectar source for smaller forest birds. The seed capsules develop slowly, taking about one year. They bear three seeds surrounded by a orange-red fleshy structure called an aril. The larger native birds eat the arils, dispersing the seeds in the process.
Over the last 17 or so years, dozens of kohekohe have been planted at MK. Many are 4-5 metres tall but aren't flowering yet, despite being over 15 years old. The only one we have seen flowering at MK is only 3 metres tall and was planted around 2005/6. It's growing right next to the main track cutting across Seed Source Gully.
Here's a close-up shot of the flowers of this tree, taken late July.
Over the last couple of years we have been planting kohekohe from seed collected from the remaining five trees in Miramar. This year we will be planting several at each working bee this month, in three different locations.
As with every working bee this month we meet on Sundays and we depart 1pm sharp from the interpretation board shelter in the Tapu Te Ranga Marae carpark. This is up the driveway signposted at the end of Danube St, Island Bay. All trees, tools and gloves are provided. We will be planting regardless of weather, so bring appropriate clothing, shoes and a raincoat. If the weather is bad we can plant in the sheltered areas.
If you are late or can't find us, call 0221 277361.
Written By Ross Gardiner.
After winning the "Trees That Count" Matariki Giveaway, Manawa Karioi was faced with the dilemma of having up to 300 more trees to get to our planting site, about 600 metres from the Tapu Te Ranga Marae carpark.
The four wheel drive track that leads to the planting site is very muddy. Access via 4 wheel drive vehicle is possible, but would make a mess of the track.
Faced with that problem, the best alternative was to load the plants onto plastic trays and carry them on-site. Each tray requires 2 people to carry, and with 14 trays it was looking at being an ordeal.
But then, the Aspiring Leaders Forum (ALF) came to the rescue.
A nation-wide gathering of young people attending the Aspiring Leaders Forum in Wellington had committed to spending two hours performing some community work as part of their conference.
On Saturday July 29, over one hundred and twenty youth came to work at Tapu Te Ranga Marae, owners of the land that comprises the Manawa Karioi Ecological Restoration Project.
Thirty of those helpers were more than enough to carry all those trays to site, with enough time to plant a tree each.
This has saved us a lot of hard work, it was just the helping hand we needed before we start planting this Sunday August 6 with almost all the plants on-site.
For those interested in joining our working bee. We will meet at the interpretation board shelter at the Tapu Te Ranga marae carpark at 1pm every Sunday in August. The marae is signposted at the end of Danube St in Island Bay. All plants, tools and gloves are supplied. New volunteers are welcome.
We will be planting regardless of weather as we have several planting sites that are all fairly sheltered. If you have trouble finding us txt 0221 277361.
Written by Ross Gardiner
The basic premise for an ecological restoration project is simple: plant trees and wait for the birds, insects and other creatures to arrive. Look at it a bit closer and things get a little more complex. It’s not simply a case of planting whatever trees you can think of that will attract the more noticeable species of birds. It involves a bit of research to find out what species used to grow there, and what species are growing nearby. Then work out what species you need to establish first on your site to create shelter for further plantings of plants that cannot handle direct sun and wind.
The first decade at Manawa Karioi was spent planting out those first-stage plants. And first to move in were the smaller forest birds such as piwakawaka (fantail) followed by tui. The latter was a welcome surprise as when Manawa Karioi was established in 1990 there were estimated to be several breeding pairs of tui in Wellington. And while there were several pairs of kereru in the Hutt Valley, there was maybe one pair in Wellington city.
By 2000, planting at Manawa Karioi had entered the second stage, with planting of species such as kahikatea, kohekohe and nikau under the established canopy of hardy colonising species. At one working bee, 11 tui were spotted feeding in tree lucerne. It was to be another 6 or so years before a regular MK volunteer saw a kereru in Island Bay, perched on the guttering of his house.
Congratulations to all our volunteers! Wellington Airport Regional Community Awards 2017 Finalist – Wellington City
We would like to say thanks to all our volunteers for their dedication and hard work over the years, we are a finalist in this years Wellington Airport Regional Community Awards.
The awards recognise the valuable contribution of volunteers to community groups across the Wellington Region, across five categories – Art & Culture, Education & Child Youth Development, Health & Wellbeing, Heritage & Environment and Sport & Leisure, and our Rising Star award celebrates new and emerging groups.
There will be an awards ceremony on Thursday 10 August. More details on the website.
A tree enthusiast and an ex-resident of Island Bay. Vanessa brings her digital skills to the volunteer team at Manawa Karioi - one of the oldest reforestation projects in Wellington.
With over 17 years experience volunteering with Manawa Karioi, Ross has a detailed knowledge of the project.
Paul Blaschke is an environmental consultant and part-time university lecturer. He loves living and working in Wellington’s southern suburbs, whether in the Owhiro catchment, the Town Belt near his home, or on the slopes at Manawa Karioi.