Some interesting plants at Matapouri Bay

As part of a site visit to a project on the Tutukaka coastline, we visited Matapouri Bay to look at some of the interesting native species that grow there. One of the most significant of these is the creeping Fuchsia procumbens, a popular landscape plant that is rare in the wild.

The small flowers of F. procumbens are some of the most remarkable in the New Zealand flora, for the number of colours (red, yellow, dark maroon and an incredible iridescent purple) exhibited within a single bloom. These develop into bright red fruits, as pictured below.

Fuchsia procumbens occupies an intriguing range of habitats at Matapouri Bay, where it grows in shade on the forest edge as well as creeping through a thick sward of exotic grasses (as shown in the photograph below, right). Grassland of this nature represents a situation in which many natives would struggle to endure, and it is doubly surprising to encounter a rare groundcover species there.

A healthy population of a beautiful coastal tree called tawapou (Planchonella costata) is also present at Matapouri Bay, where it was in fruit at the time of our visit (as can be see in the photograph at the bottom of this journal entry). Tawapou is a fine landscape plant that should be seen more within the work of landscape designers in the north of the country.

The striking fruits (which range in colour from reds through to yellows and black) are attractive to kereru, whilst the seeds hold significance within Maori tradition (for they were used to make necklaces). The glossy leaves typically bear a distinctive rolled edge, and are arranged in an ordered fashion on the branches.

Another plant that caught our attention was a species of native Clematis that grew out of the grassy hillside, in impoverished, drought-prone ground. Its appearance (especially the pale green colour of the new foliage) and growing station reminded us of Clematis forsteri. However, that species is not recorded as growing in Northland, so we assume that this is an unusual form of a species normally found in more shaded habitats (and with much more delicate foliage), Clematis cunninghamii.

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