looking after your patch
central otago faces some real challenges when it comes to the natural regeneration of our plant species. most revegetation projects here face the same issues.
A land of extremes
Hottest, coldest, driest. These are all national titles that our region can claim and when our annual soil moisture levels have an average deficit of 110-130mm annually (NIWA) this makes it a pretty tough place to establish yourself.
For places that can be irrigated we recommend a deep water once every week to two weeks over the dry months until established -which should be around two years.
For those places that can't be irrigated we have developed a 'Dryland planting technique' to give them their best chance.
Species selection is also vitally important and those plants that have their seed origin from this area will be best set up for survival here. Knowing your patch and the microenvironment that it falls under will also ensure the right species is chosen.
When recent arrivals take over
There are a wide range of pest plants in Central Otago. Some of them were bought in by the European settlers for various reasons and others are more recent arrivals having escaped our gardens. However they got here, they have one thing in common -they out-compete our natives. They grow faster, thicker and seed more vigorously.
Grasses like 'cocksfoot' Dactylis glomerata overwhelm our plants when planted out young, and form such thick, deep cover that species succession won't happen as the seed can't hit the soil to germinate.
Trees like the wilding conifers are at the other end of the scale. They outgrow, over shadow, suck up water and change the soil chemistry -creating a monoculture while they do it. These are a different type of end game species.
If a plant grows fast and strong in our dry conditions and it isn't a native, be aware if it jumps the fence it could become an issue for everyone. iNaturalist is a great site to identify plants (and animals). Knowing what you have is the first step to controlling it!
Our plant species are extremely palatable
As if climate and competition weren't enough. We have a third element and possibly the main threat to natural species regeneration - grazing animals.
Rabbits, hares, goats, deer, livestock and even chamoix are known to be active in our area and love to eat our natives. We await the wallaby with dread. The smaller animals go for the seedlings and the young plants. The larger ones also target the more mature plant and if not succeeding in killing the unlucky plant, it's ability to flower and seed will be prevented.
A new issue
Myrtle rust is a serious fungal disease. It is in many parts of the world but was first found in New Zealand in May 2017. It can easily spread across large distances by wind which is how it is thought to have arrived from Australia.
It is unclear at this time how it will affect our Myrtaceae family species like pōhutukawa, rātā, swamp maire, ramarama and of particular relevance to us, mānuka and kānuka - our pioneer plant species. Overseas Myrtle rust attacks young, actively growing leaves, shoot tips and young stems. It can cause twig dieback which over time may result in death.
Recently the focus has moved from response and control to long term management as it has now spread from the North Island to the top of the South. Please report if you see signs of it on the iNaturalist -Myrtle rust reporter site.
What you can do
70% of land in New Zealand is privately owned and our threatened habitats occur mainly on the lowland within private ownership. Even small remnants are important.
Do you have something worth sharing? Please get in touch with us about the opportunity to visit and/or seed collect firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you have something worth protecting? For more information QEII trust would be glad to help.