Boulder Bank

December 13, 2013

On a recent business trip to Nelson, I headed out to the Boulder Bank – a peculiar natural formation that is a prominent feature of that coastline. This narrow, exposed strip is home to a number of interesting plant species that are well suited to the extreme conditions that Tasman Bay can summon.

Salt-laden winds shear shrubby species into ground-hugging forms that bear similarities with the lines of nearby hills, as demonstrated by the specimen of Coprosma propinqua that is shown below.

The boulders that give this place its name have been put to playful use in several parts, such as the round pit pictured below. Although it was no doubt just put together on a whim, the form of this simple hollow was reminiscent of images that I have recently seen of Saami worship sites (called sieidi) from Scandinavia.

The pink flowers of Calystegia soldanella (pictured below), which are a familiar sight over much of our coastline, seemed somewhat incongruous with the rather austere aesthetic of the Boulder Bank.

Flattened shrubs of Melicytus crassifolius act as an important food source for the large numbers of lizards that live on Boulder Bank. This enigmatic coastal shrub holds a large proportion of its fruits within its canopy, thereby preserving this resource for lizards (who undoubtedly play a significant role in its dispersal).

Melicytus crassifolius is an excellent shrub for low structure within plantings. As one can infer from the images herein, it is well adapted to thrive in difficult sites, such as roundabouts, coastal sites and exposed streefront gardens.

I was particularly interested to see Melicytus crassifolius growing in close association with a similar species that is informally known as Melicytus “Waipapa”. This compact shrub, which is pictured below, has a less verdant appearance than M. crassifolius, and looks more similar to the Melicytus alpinus complex of species.