Plants of Kauaeranga Valley

September 28, 2014

The goal for most walkers who take to the tracks of the Kauaeranga Valley is the magnificent group of cliffs and outcrops at the summit of the valley (called the Pinnacles, part of which is pictured below). Some errant minds, however, are distracted a thousand times over by the interesting array of plants that occur over the length of the track (not to mention the remarkable stone paths and steps that have already been featured within this journal).

Brachyglottis myrianthos (pictured below, left) is a rare species of shrubby daisy (mostly confined to the Coromandel Peninsula) that occurs along much of the side of the track in upper parts of the valley. Another compact shrub of track sides is Dracophyllum patens; although it is not confined to such habitats, for it is also common in the wind-shorn scrub leading up to the Pinnacles (where this plant, below right) was growing. This Dracophyllum has proven itself to be one of the most accommodating species in cultivation within northern New Zealand.

Several small species/varieties of mountain daisy perch on high peaks and coastal cliffs in the north of New Zealand, including Celmisia adamsii var. adamsii (shown below), which is found naturally in part of the Coromandel Peninsula and on Mt Pirongia.

The unusual foliage colour of Pseudopanax discolor stands out amongst the scrub near the Pinnacles, where exposure brings out its most intense hues. Under the canopy of the forest in the valley, its leaves exhibit a soft green colour with only hints of the bronze tints that make this species desirable to gardeners.

The Coromandel koromiko (Hebe pubescens ssp. pubescens) adorns the upland scrub with its light mauve flowers (below, left) in summer. In contrast with the relatively soft appearance of the Hebe, the Coromandel tree daisy (Olearia townsonii, pictured below right) cuts a muscular figure amidst the scrub, where it displays large heads of white flowers in early summer.

As we walked through the scrub to climb up the Pinnacles, this manuka was putting on one of the densest flowering displays I have ever seen from that species.

The Pinnacles are part of the ancient volcanic range of the Coromandels, and constitute the old centre of a volcano that has subsequently eroded away (leaving behind the very hard stone that formed in its heart). Walkers can climb to a lookout near the top via a series of ladders and metal rungs (the latter being embedded straight into the rock).

Dracophyllum traversii grows in these upland areas, as shown in the photograph below, where it emerges from compact shrubs of Griselinia littoralis (a tree more commonly found in colder parts of the country).

The small tree pictured below, Pseudopanax laetus, has become relatively popular in cultivation in recent years, due to its attractive, bold foliage. This was one species that I was keen to see at Kauaeranga Valley, as I had not previously been to parts of the country where it is common. It grows both in the forest (particularly along streamsides) and in the open, as with the impressive brute below.