Cyclone Gita reveals park secret

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When Project Janszoon got underway five years ago one of the first tasks was to find out more about the interior, so a team was despatched to look at the vegetation. Way up top, a single individual of a species never before seen in the park, a perching orchid called ‘little spotted moa’, Drymoanthus flavus, was found growing on the trunk of a hall’s totara.

When Philip Simpson was on the trail of a cluster of moa gizzard stones at the head of the Awaroa inlet he found the track blocked by a large miro that had been uprooted by a slip during ex-cyclone Gita. He had to scramble over the canopy to get through. Lo and behold he was confronted by a mass of Drymoanthus. Not only were there clusters of the deep green large species, D. adversus, but there were smaller plants that looked a bit like D. flavus. He sent a photo to DOC botanist Shannel Courtney who also thought it might be D flavus, because it had purple-specks on the leaves. Still uncertain, Philip returned to the tree a few days later and spent a long time scrambling through the leafy branches.

He found that on the larger branches and upper trunk there were large patches of the glossy green D adversus. Then, on the little branches up in the miro leaves were the unmistakable small, yellow-green blotchy leaves of D flavus, not common but enough to prove they weren’t freaks and one had a ripe seed capsule. The big glossy species is a lowland species here shelters beneath the canopy. The little spotted one is an upland or cold-climate species, here growing in the high exposed canopy.

It is a pity we have lost a miro, but that loss allowed us to explore the canopy and an orchid treasure was discovered. In all likelihood D. flavus is scattered through the canopy of many tall lowland trees, especially it seems the miro.

Little spotted moa Drymoanthus flavus photographed by Philip Simpson

Dr Philip Simpson

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