Arai Te Uru

For a plant that is very popular in cultivation, Hebe speciosa is an elusive creature in the wild, where it endures in a number of relatively small populations on the western coast of the North Island. One of these is situated on wind-beaten coastal cliffs at Arai Te Uru, otherwise known as South Head.

On the return trip from a site visit to Ahipara, we recently stopped at the Hokianga Harbour to look at this clifftop ecology, in which Hebe speciosa grows with an interesting assemblage of species, including Coprosma acerosa and an upright form of Pimelea (which I suspect to be Pimelea orthia).

It is interesting to observe commonly-planted species such as H. speciosa (pictured, below left) within comparatively natural habitats, as they often form counter-intuitive associations with other plants. Unlike the manner in which this mounding shrub is normally seen in gardens, it pushes its way through extensive patches of oioi (as well as flax specimens) over much of this habitat.

This 'vigorous' combination of species can be seen below, in which H. speciosa (to the right) grows amongst the reed-like stems of oioi (Apodasmia similis). The presence of the aforementioned upright form of Pimelea (as shown in the image above, right) was also of particular interest to me, as we have recently begun to plant Pimelea orthia (an upright northern species) within a number of projects in the Auckland region (where it is recorded as having historically grown in Central Auckland).

In addition to perching on the most wind-blown, bare positions at the brow of the cliffs, this Pimelea was especially common on the beautiful, north-facing habitat shown below, in which the increasingly rare sand coprosma (Coprosma acerosa) grows out of the bank. Despite not having noticed its presence on the walk in, we observed large areas of Coprosma acerosa as we walked back to the road, holding its ground (for now) as it battled its way through a hillside of kikuyu.

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