Roadside biodiversity

November 8, 2017

Of the many distinctive elements of East Coast/Tairāwhiti’s flora, the significance of Senecio rufiglandulosus in this region’s landscapes has more to do with its relative abundance (including within some reasonably unpromising habitats) than with being confined to this part of the world.

This conspicuous native daisy is one of several native plants (such as kowhai, raukumara and other Senecio species) that emblazon certain habitats in bright yellow during spring. Last week, I noticed large patches of S. rufiglandulosus on a roadside bank near Gisborne, where it grows in association with a beautiful herb from eastern parts of the North Island, Jovellana sinclairii.

Due to the fact that Banks and Solander collected Senecio rufiglandulosus in flower at Anaura Bay, it is an important species in our design for the 1769 Garden at Longbush Ecosanctuary. At the time that we formulated the design, we had no idea that it grew so close to the project. The occurrence of flourishing plants of this species relatively nearby (and in a similar aspect to several points within the 1769 Garden) demonstrates that its cultivation should present few problems; especially compared with growing S. rufiglandulosus in the humid north.

Roadside populations of other plants provide a picture of their tolerances, and as a result, their potential for cultivation. Coprosma crassifolia (pictured below, left, at Anaura Bay) and Senecio quadridentatus (below, right, at Te Araroa) are species that we are interested in for both urban plantings and larger-scale landscapes.

In the case of the places that are pictured below, these small populations show both the resilience of these plants and the ‘aesthetic logic’ of natural plant communities. The latter is a valuable resource for forming opinions around how pattern and density may be employed in planting design.