Haldon Hills

February 12, 2019

Sometimes, it’s not about what you know, but who you know – especially when you want to see plant communities on private land. This is a privilege that I have been afforded on a great number of occasions, whether as a result of friendships that I have made, or the generosity that I have experienced more often than not from farmers and landowners whom I have contacted for access.

For our Marlborough field trip in December of last year, Winston carried out the legwork with communication for access to various places; including organising a day around Little Haldon Hills – the only area in which the highly distinctive and attractive species, Pachystegia rufa, grows naturally. Interestingly, we weren’t within the four main gullies to which this bronze-leaved species is generally considered to be restricted, but rather an ancient sandstone tower a small distance away from P. rufa‘s main populations.

Geology plays a significant role in determining where certain Marlborough Rock Daisies occur, with the smallest species, Pachystegia minor, associated with limestones and Jurassic sandstones/mudstones, whilst the subject of interest for this day, P. rufa, is found on fertile Jurassic sandstones/mudstones1. The most commonly-grown species, Pachystegia insignis, is less particular, and occurs over a much wider range of rock types.

In the shrubland surrounding this impressive tower (pictured below), leafless clematis (C. afoliata) winds its unusual yellow-green stems through the framework provided by grey scrub. In mid-December, leafless clematis (which is extremely common in many places around Marlborough) had already finished flowering, such that its conspicuous fluffy seedheads sat incongruously upon the bare stems.

On the way through to finding Pachystegia rufa, we stopped at several other spots, including a hillside on which the mountain daisy pictured below (Celmisia monroi) grew on and around a series of bluffs. The presence of this beautiful species was notable in comparison with the habitats normally occupied by similar species within that genus – insofar as this habitat would be subjected to more extreme conditions in summer.

My unending fascination with encountering the diversity of forms contained within the genus, Melicytus, (many of which are unnamed) was also indulged by the presence of a form known by the tag name of Melicytus “Waipapa”. This resilient, drought-tolerant shrub is able to successfully occupy both shaded and open sites, with the degree of light ordaining whether it has a more open, upright growth form or the tight, mounded habit exhibited below.

A case of mistaken identity is an apt point on which to conclude this journal entry; specifically pertaining to the moment that I looked across to Winston and Cole and thought, “Why are they bothering to pay so much attention to yet another Coprosma propinqua over there ?”. As it turns out, that Coprosma propinqua was one of several extraordinary wind-sculpted ‘clouds’ of the compact kowhai species, Sophora prostrata – the scale of which Winston is ably demonstrating in the image below by holding his hands up above the bush.

The image below is also fitting, due to the fact that our Marlborough trip marked the end of nearly 4 years at O2 Landscapes for Winston, during which he has contributed a great deal to the business (and as a friend to Rob, Cole and me). We wish him the best with his new ventures, some of which will undoubtedly entail more adventures together – whether in Marlborough’s environs or other wild places throughout the country.