A Hill and a rockstack

October 26, 2015

During our long (long, long) drives around the country (whilst preparing our new book, ‘Vernacular’), David and I had to have a few things to talk about. Luckily, this was not difficult. One of the themes that we returned to regularly (in a poor man’s approximation of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon stuck in a car) was the wistful thought of what we would play on Kim Hill’s Saturday Morning show, in the highly ambitious (and unlikely) assumption that we would ever be invited. However, it costs nothing to dream.

Although Kim Hill’s show is the best platform for anyone producing a book, or music, or genetic analysis of obscure moths within this country, our desire to be on the show had nothing to do with self-aggrandisement – but had rather more to do with the curiosity and rigour with which Kim approaches any subject. When that unlikely event actually happened, we duly took the opportunity to distress the ears of the listening public with our musical choices – although the producer of the show, Mark Cubey, informed us that they had previously played tracks that were far more shocking than Fugazi, T. Raumschmiere or David Bowie in one of his more dissonant moments.

Before flying down for the interview, I held out hope that Wellington would produce a fine day with little wind (a tall order in spring), so that I could visit a rock stack on the eastern tip of Miramar Peninsula, in order to take in the rich array of plant species that occupy this small outcrop by the road. Earlier in the year, I had already had a good look at it as part of a field trip with students from Victoria University, at which time I did not have a camera to record some of the interesting plants that live here.

Wind-shorn shrubs and herbs, such as Melicytus crassifolius, Olearia solandri and Coprosma propinqua, form tapestries of foliage that vary from almost flat in the windiest positions to gently mounding in spots with a little more protection. The yellow flowers of one of our many species of Senecio (probably S. lautus, pictured below) emerge from other plants, presumably testifying to regular visits by seabirds – as the fertility that they provide is important to herbs such as this.

For me, the most interesting plant perching amongst the steep rockfaces was an attractive blue grass that has been common in cultivation for a long time – Anthosachne (formerly known as Elymus) solandri (pictured above). Although it is not naturally rare, I had never seen this drought-tolerant grass in the wild, and it is always worthwhile to see familiar garden plants within the conditions that they naturally inhabit.