Our Plants

The variety of ecosystems present across the park create niches for many special plants. Some of these plants are unique to the park and are quite rare. Others, such as northern rātā, are less abundant as a result of the presence and activities of humans and browsing animals for many decades. Both rātā and mistletoe will be great indicators of ecological progress as the park is transformed over the next 30 years, because each has been in steady decline due to the aforementioned factors. As those factors are removed or controlled, these plants should begin to thrive again. Keep an eye on this page as we add information about many of the rare and threatened species in the park.

Plant me instead

plant me instead booklet thumb
This Plant Me Instead booklet profiles the environmental weeds of greatest concern to those in your region who work and volunteer in local parks and reserves, national parks, bush remnants, wetlands and coastal areas. Suggestions are given for locally-sold non-weedy species, both native and non-native, that can be used to replace these weeds in your garden. We hope that the Plant Me...
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Akeake

Akeake thumb
Akeake (Dodonaea viscosa) is a coastal tree that is widespread around the Southern Hemisphere, dispersed by its floating papery seeds. It is identifiable by its light green leaves (which rustle in the wind) and its reddish stringy bark. Several other trees share this name, all of them having exceptionally hard wood. The straight stems of akeake were used to make weapons by...
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Black beech

Black beech thumb
Black beech is one of New Zealand’s most beautiful trees, the dusty-green canopy reaching out in picturesque shapes along the rocky coast. It is a lowland species but with increasing altitude it gradually changes form into a tough small tree called mountain beech. Black beech has small oval leaves and grows well on headlands. Black beech is named for its black...
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Bracken fern (rārahu)

Bracken hillside thumb
Bracken means ‘fern’ in old northern European language and applies to a worldwide group of closely related species. Ours (rārahu) is Pteridium esculentum and is found in West Polynesia and Australasia. It was uncommon in pre-human New Zealand, but became extremely widespread following Māori burning of lowland forest from the early 13th century, and was maintained by fire. In wet areas, bracken decays...
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Clematis and vines

Bushlawyer thumb
The white flowering clematis, named puawānanga (Clematis paniculata), is one of the most beautiful New Zealand flowers and was often painted onto postcards by early settlers and posted ‘home’ to Britain. It was sacred to Maori, its name meaning the flower of knowledge or learning, wānanga meaning school. Puawānanga is a vine and the flowers are exposed on top of the...
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Ferns

Ancient fern Tmesipteris thumb
New Zealand is world famous for its ferny character—early enthusiasts were called ‘ferniacs’! They range in form from giant trees 20 m tall with fronds 5 m long (the mamaku, common in these gullies) to minute filmy ferns just 1 cm tall, which are common on wet banks along the track. The silver fern (ponga) is our national emblem. Ferns...
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Five-finger

Five finger thumb
Five-finger is named after the five leaflets composing each leaf (although one species has seven and another three). Five-finger is a fast growing colonizing tree that can grow through bracken fern and eventually create pure forest. Young trees are tall and unbranched. Adults produce masses of black fruits that are eaten by birds. It is also the common host for a...
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Flax (harakeke)

Flax flowers thumb
Flax (harakeke) was the most valuable of all plants to Māori, used to weave rope, nets, cloaks, skirts, mats, baskets, footwear. The tough leaf fibres protect the leaves from wind damage and allow the huge-tussocks' to project their leaves above the water in swamps. The name 'flax' comes from the Europeans who saw that the leaves were used for fibre like the...
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Gahnia sedges (cutty grass)

Ghania sedge thumb
All through the kānuka/mānuka badlands and especially down the slope around the wetlands there are large grassy masses of sharp-edged sedges called gahnia. The Māori name is tākahikahi, which refers to the sharp edge of the leaf. When growing densely they are very difficult to walk through, and best admired from a distance. They produce tall plumes of grassy flowers and...
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Glasswort

Glasswort thumb
One of the most characteristic salt tolerant plants is glasswort, named for its fleshy, glass like stems. Its botanical name is Sarcocornia quinqueflora, and the Māori name is ureure after its upright stems. It grows in spreading patches and is often reddish in colour but dies back to mud level in winter. It is very important in intercepting sediment and often...
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Hakea

Hakea thumb
Willow leaved hakea (Hakea salicifolia) is an Australian native brought to New Zealand as a fast-growing hedge plant and was probably used as wind shelter around settler’s houses. It escaped and thrived on the open ridges that had been cleared of forest, well adapted to dry infertile places. It is a problem weed in other countries too, especially South Africa and...
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Hard beech

Hard beech thumb
Hard beech (after the hard wood) and black beech[sitetree_link,id=148] are the two most common forest species in the park. Hard beech has larger, tough, toothed leaves. They are timber trees and produce seeds that are important food for birds like parakeets. It grows in drier places like lower faces and ridges.   Hard beech Hard beech  
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Kahikatea

Kahikatea thumb
If you look at the head of the Anchorage wetland you will see a cluster of conical trees. These are young kahikatea, one of the characteristic podocarps of New Zealand, specialised for growing around wetlands, forming swamp forest. Rimu is a specialist of moist hillslopes, while tōtara grows best along fertile river valleys. When mature, kahikatea are New Zealand’s tallest trees. Every...
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Kāmahi

Kamahi thumb
A good example of kāmahi (Weinmannia racemosa) can be found at Stu’s Lookout. It is a very common small tree throughout the park, with pale bark and reddish green leaves, and is noted for its sprays of nectar- forming white flowers (a bush honey tree). Kāmahi often starts life as an epiphyte on the trunks of tree ferns. Historically, the...
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Kawakawa

Kawakawa thumb
Kawakawa (Macropiper excelsum) is a common plant in most coastal lowland parts of New Zealand, but in Abel Tasman is restricted to warm places because the soil is too infertile. Its common name is pepper tree, and it is a member of the pepper family. A related pacific species is M. methysticum, the roots of which are used to make...
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Mānuka/kānuka

Manuka flowers thumb
Mānuka and kānuka are two of the most common plants in New Zealand. They are often linked as one species, pronounced locally as mar-new-ka, but in fact are in different genera (Leptospermum and Kunzea, respectively) and usually grow in different habitats. They are similar in being able to regenerate through grassland on lightly grazed hillsides and hence have the reputation as weeds....
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Milk tree

Milk tree thumb
The milk tree is tropical and very local, reaching its southern limit in Tasman and Golden Bay. It is named for the white juice that flows from a bark wound, juice that was used as milk in former times. The plant is rare now and adult trees are mostly restricted to islands in the park, especially Tonga. Seedlings establish in a...
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Mistletoe

Mistletoe thumb
Mistletoes are pretty rare in the Abel Tasman thanks to a combination of possums, who love to browse on them, and stoats and rats reducing the populations of the birds who are responsible for pollinating them. One of the unique features of mistletoes is that they have specialised “explosive” flowers which can only be opened by tūī, bellbirds and some insects....
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Montbretia and privet

Montbretia thumb
Several introduced weed species are present along the track including privet, cotoneaster and Montbretia. These are garden escapes introduced by settlers and bach-owners. These species are spread by birds, wild pigs and erosion and pose a threat to the native character and biodiversity of the area and thus are being removed. Weed removal, including wilding pines, and further along the track,...
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Mosses and lichens

Lichens mosses and ferns on rockface thumb
Mosses and lichens are small plants that abound along the banks of the track. There is a bewildering variety. Mosses are green plants that grow in dense patches, each shoot looking like a miniature tree. One is named totara because it looks like a miniature conifer, while another, called Dawsonia superba, is similarly shaped but much bigger and is thought to...
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Native sand species

Shore bindweed Calystegia soldanella thumb
Two native species occur at Porter’s Beach. The shore bindweed (panahi, Calystegia soldanella) has round green leaves with spreading fleshy stems and roots beneath the sand. You will notice its pink flowers during summer. The sand sedge (Carex pumila) forms low-growing open patches with curled blue-green leaves attached to long underground stems, often around the edge of wet areas. These plants...
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Northern rātā

Northern rata thumb
On each side of the lookout you will see a northern rātā tree. This is one of the southernmost places in Tasman Bay for this species. In the northern part of the park it is common and grows into large trees. These trees start life as an epiphyte, but send roots down to the ground. These then form side roots...
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Orchids

Sun orchid in flower thumb
Places with bare acidic soil, scattered lichens and mosses and scattered trees of kānuka and mānuka are ideal habitats for ground orchids. New Zealand has nearly a hundred species of orchids. Nearly all of them have tubers under the ground, fleshy roots associated with fungi that help the orchid absorb nutrients, and in spring one or a few new leaves emerge,...
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Pittosporum (divaricating plants)

Pittosporum thumb
If you look closely beside the track through the stunted beech forest you will see dark, extremely twiggy shrubs bearing small green leaves. This is Pittosporum lineare. It is a feature of the beech forest in small patches in the park. It has seeds that are embedded in thick pitch which helps dispersal by birds. Most species of Pittosporum are normal...
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Raupō

Raupo thumb
Raupō (bulrush, cattail, Typha orientalis) forms dense summer-green masses of erect spongy leaves with tall brown flower heads and provides shelter for wetland birds. Māori used the pollen and starchy underground stems as food, and the leaves for thatching and buoyant canoes called mōkihi and to make poi.   Raupo Raupō  
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Ribbonwood

Ribbonwood thumb
Around the edges of the estuary are dark-coloured, almost leafless, twiggy shrubs. They look almost dead, but in spring are covered in sweetly scented flowers. They are named marsh ribbonwood, Plagianthus divaricatus, or mākaka, referring to the bent stems. If they grow densely mākaka can take the force of wind-blown waves and catch driftwood, creating a fertile edge to the estuary...
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Rimu

Rimu mature thumb
Rimu is a podocarp, the group of conifers that is dominant in the Southern Hemisphere. In contrast to most conifers podocarps have fleshy seeds dispersed by birds. There are over 200 species of podocarps in 20 genera. Rimu is the only New Zealand member of the genus Dacrydium which is more common in New Caledonia and Indonesia and New Zealand’s...
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Rushes and sedges

Sea rushes and wire rush thumb
There are two main rushes in the estuary. The most common is wīwī, the sea rush, Juncus maritimus variety australiensis, which is the southern form of a world-wide species. The Māori name relates to the wind rippling across the surface. It grows in dense masses and is not palatable, therefore it has survived unscathed since farming began. It can tolerate inundation by...
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Silver beech

Silver beech thumb
Silver beech (named after the silver patches of bark) has small toothed leaves and can be seen on the Tinline bush walk. Silver beech grows in wet places, usually at higher altitude and also along the streams and on shaded lower slopes.   Silver beech Silver beech  
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Tītoki

Titoki thumb
One of the most beautiful trees in New Zealand, tītoki has tropical relatives and occupies warm fertile places in lowland New Zealand, and is uncommon in the park. It is a small tree recognised mainly by its large pinnate leaves (leaflets in two rows). The seed is jet black and half surrounded by a scarlet glandular pulp that is eagerly sought...
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Tree ferns

Mamaku thumb
Tree ferns are a characteristic feature of the New Zealand bush, thriving in the cool moist climate. There are 10 species in New Zealand, with five growing in the park. The two most common are mamaku or black tree fern—with black leaf stalks—arguably the largest tree fern in the world, and ponga, or silver fern, named for the silver underside...
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Tutu

Tutu thumb
Tutu (toot, Coriaria arborea) is a bushy small tree with broad shiny leaves in opposite pairs and flowers and berries in long tassels. Good example can be seen on the granite cliff along Porter’s Beach and by the Tinline bridge. In Māori legend it was one of the first trees because it clothed the bare earth. As a nitrogen fixing...
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Whiteywood (māhoe)

Mahoe thumb
Whiteywood, named after its white wood and bark, is another one of the most common New Zealand trees. Its fast growing leafy stems can push up through fern and branch into rounded trees, allowing other trees to regenerate beneath. In spring māhoe produces masses of scented flowers along the bare upper stems and these mature into violet-coloured berries, relished by native...
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