Neozeylandic Podocarp Forest

Podocarps are primarily a southern hemisphere family (Podocarpaceae), which is thought to be a reflection of their dominance in Gondwana during the Cretaceous period. Originally these ancient forests extended from the extreme north of North Island to the south of Stewart Island, although the dominant podocarp species varies. In this respect, they can be broadly divided into three types: forests dominated by the endemic Dacrydium cupressinus, forests dominated by the endemic Podocarpus totara, and forests dominated by Podocarpus spicatus. Dacrydium forest extends from south of Hokianga Harbour to Stewart Island. Podocarpus totara forests are mainly limited to the volcanic plateau south and west of Lake Taupo and the East Cape districts of North Island, while in South Island they appear to have been largely restricted to eastern districts. It is not now possible to determine the original distribution of Podocarpus spicatus forest. Today remnants can be found on the Southland Plain and they form small stands on the flats of nearly all Westerland rivers as far south as the Cascade River. All podocarps are light demanding especially during their early development. About 385 woodland species have been recorded in these forests, but those of North Island and those in the north and northwest of South Island are far richer than those further south.  Among these are many endemic species including ferns and fern allies such as Blechnum discolor (Blechnaceae), Hymenophyllum sanguinolentum (Hymenophyllaceae), Leptopteris hymenophylloides (Osmundaceae) and Tmesipteris tannensis (Psilotaceae), and flowering plants like Aristotelia serrata (Elaeocarpaceae), Astelia nervosa (Asteliaceae), Carpodetus serratus (Rousseaceae), Coprosma lucida (Rubiaceae), Coriaria arborea (Coriariaceae), Earina mucronata (Orchidaceae), Epilobium pubens (Onagraceae), Hydrocotyle novae-zelaniae (Apiaceae), Griselinia littoralis (Griseliniaceae), Parsonsia heterophylla (Apocynaceae), Plagianthus betulinus (Malvaceae), Rhipogonum scandens (Smilacaceae), Rubus australis (Rosaceae), Schefflera digitata (Araliaceae) and Uncinia caespitosa (Cyperaceae).

Neozeylandic Podocarpus dacrydioides Swamp Forest

Swamp forest dominated by Podocarpus dacrydioides extend throughout the low belts of New Zealand but become less diverse in the northern Otago districts of South Island and on Stewart Island. They only gain their best development in the flood zones of large rivers, where they can have an unusual physiognomy often with a preponderance of largely unbranched, very straight P. dacrydioides trees. These can be very tall, reaching heights of 60 m, and even though their crowns are often very sparse, they frequently support surprisingly large bushes of the endemic Astelia solandri (Asteliaceae). In other cases their trunks may be highly buttressed and their roots exposed well above the ground. The undergrowth only becomes well developed in the drier areas, but the endemic liana Freycinetia banksii (Pandanaceae) can often completely envelop tree trunks. Other trees may include the endemic Laurelia novae-zelandiae (Monimiaceae), which produces large pneumatophores, while the dominant tree fern is the endemic Dicksonia squarrosa (Dicksoniaceae). Among the many other common endemic taxa are Blechnum procerum (Blechnaceae), Geniostoma ligustrifolium (Loganiaceae), Melicytus micranthus (Violaceae) and Rubus schmidelioides (Rosaceae).

Neozeylandic Dacrydium colensoi (silver fir) Bog Forest

Bog forests dominated by Dacrydium colensoi are largely confined to the volcanic plateau district in the Mount Raupehu areas of North Island and the western lowlands of the Southern Alps. Associated trees include Podocarpus hallii and the endemic Libocedrus bidwillii (Cupressaceae) and Phylocladus alpinus (Phyllocladaceae). The canopy reaches no more than about 12 m in height, but there is usually dense undergrowth up to 3 m tall. This commonly includes endemic species like Alseuosmia quercifolia (Alseuosmiaceae), Coprosma foetidissima (Rubiaceae), Gahnia pauciflora (Cyperaceae) and Weinmannia racemosa (Cunoniaceae). 

Neozeylandic Dacrydium intermediate (yellow pine) Bog Forest

Extending much further south than Dacrydium colensoi forest, these forests occur in the upland areas of North Island and in the northwestern and fiord districts of South Island, but show their best development on Stewart Island. A characteristic feature of these forests is their rich bryophyte flora, with many trees support giant cushions of the Dicranoloma billardieri and Plagiochila gigantea. There is also a profusion of bryophytes on the forest floor, which also typically includes tussocks of the endemic Gahnia procera (Cyperaceae). Ferns, including tree ferns, are uncommon, but the endemic Leptopteris superba (Osmundaceae) can be commonly found in wet gullies. Other endemic species that may be encountered in the undergrowth include Coprosma colensoi (Rubiaceae), Dracophyllum latifolium (Ericaceae) and Elaeocarpus hookerianus (Elaeocarpaceae).

Neozeylandic (Subantarctic) Nothofagus Rain Forest

These forests are distinguished by the dominance of one or more endemic species of Nothofagus (southern beech) including Nothofagus fusca, N. menziesii, N. solandri var. cliffordioides, N. solandri var. solandri and N. truncata (Nothofagaceae). The genus is confined to the southern hemisphere, and is thought to have strong links with Gondwana. In fact, they can be traced back to the Cretaceous period. Moving from north to south these forests are first encountered in the Thames District of North Island where they follow the island’s dividing range, but near Cook Strait they nearly descend to sea level. In South Island they occur in the Northwestern District and western Tasman Mountains, the Southern Alps and down to the south coast, while in the east they extend over a large part of the South Otago District. Other trees commonly include the two endemics Beilschmeidia tawa (Lauraceae) and Weinmannia racemosa (Cunoniaceae). Endemic taxa are also prevalent in the undergrowth with species such as Archeria traversii (Ericaceae), Coprosma grandifolium, Nertera dichondraefolia (Rubiaceae), Hymenophyllum scabrum (Hymenophyllaceae), Ixerbia brexoides (Ixerbiaceae), Melicytus lanceolatus, Viola filicaulis (Violaceae), Polystichum vestitum (Dryopteridaceae), Pseudopanax linearis (Araliaceae), Pseudowintera colorata (Winteraceae) and Quintinia serrata (Paracryphiaceae). Epiphytes are rare but the two parasitic mistletoes - the yellow flowered Elytranthe flavida and the scarlet flowered Elytranthe tetrapetala are a feature of the beech woods on the eastern foothills of the Southern Alps. 

Neozeylandic Nothofagus Subalpine Forest

These forests like their lowland counterparts are distinguished by the dominance of one of more species of Nothofagus, but the endemic Nothofagus solandri var. cliffortioides (Nothofagaceae) is frequently the most dominant species. They can be found in various upland areas including the Volcanic Plateau, Tararua Mountains, Mount Te Aroha and Mount Stokes, but their species composition vary according to moisture levels with rainfall varying from 100-750 cm per year. In dry forest on the Volcanic Plateau, the undergrowth is fairly open. The shrubs and small trees include various endemic species such as Coprosma pseudocuneata (Rubiaceae) and Phyllocladus alpinus (Phyllocladaceae). Ground level flora includes mats of the endemic Hymenophyllum multifidum (Hymenophyllaceae) and various sedges such as Uncinia uncinata. In wetter forest, like these of the Ruahine Mountains, the undergrowth is more species-rich and typically includes more distinctive moss-carpets and moss-cushions including species of Dicranoloma. Ferns are also conspicuous with species like the endemic Hymenophyllum villosum (Hymenophyllaceae).

Neozeylandic Phyllocladus alpinus Subalpine Forest

Mountain forest dominated by the endemic Phyllocladus alpinus (Phyllocadaceae) occurs on the Volcanic Plateau, north of Mount Tongariro, the upper Waimarino Plain, Hauhungatahi and other places. Other trees may include some or all of the podocarps and the endemic Libocedrus bidwillii (Cupressaceae). Canopy heights can reach about 6 m. The ground layer species typically include Astelia cockaynei and the endemic fern Hymenophyllum multifidum (Hymenophyllaceae), but a multitude of other endemic plants may be encountered including Coprosma microcarpa (Rubiaceae), Hebe traversii (Plantaginaceae), Pittorsporum divaricatum (Pittorsporaceae) and Rubus schmidelioides var. subpauperatus (Rosaceae).

Neozeylandic Libocedrus bidwillii Subalpine Forest

These forests are usually dominated by the endemic Libocedrus bidwillii (Cupressaceae) with its distinctive erect habit and pyramidal crowns, but Podocarpus hallii may also be very important and dominate in places. They occur in the sub alpine belts of northwestern, western and eastern districts of South Island and on Mount Egmont and the Volcanic Plateau of North Island. Associated small trees and shrubs include a number of endemic species such as Dacrydium cupressinum (Podocarpaceae) and trunkless forms of the endemic tree fern Dicksonia lanata (Dicksoniaceae). In some places the impressive endemic ‘tuft-tree’ Cordyline indivisa (Laxmanniaceae) is abundant. The trunks of many trees, such as the endemic Griselinia littoralis (Griseliniaceae), become covered in epiphytic ferns, such as the endemic Hymenophyllum villosum (Hymenophyllaceae), and mosses, such as the yellow-green cushions of Dicranoloma billardieri. A number of seedlings and young tree are also epiphytic. These include Nothopanax sinclairii and the endemic Coprosma lucida var. angustifolia (Rubiaceae), and in some cases these can kill and replace their host.

Neozeylandic Mountain Herb Fields

Characterized by the presence of various large herbs these formations occur on the Dividing Range of North Island including the highest peaks of the East Cape Mountains and the central volcanoes, while in South Island they can be found in the Southern Alps and the mountains of the northwest and South Otago districts. In fact, they can be found on all the high mountains where there is frequent rain and an accumulation of humus or peat.

Species composition varies from place to place. On the Tararva Mountains, North Island they are characterized by large amounts of Astelia cockaynei, which can appear as either large clumps or as continuous cover stretching for many square metres. Other characteristic species include the endemic Celmisia spectabilis, Leucogenes grandiceps, L. leontopodium (Asteraceae) and Ranunculus insignis (Ranunculaceae). Leucogenes grandiceps is one of the most attractive of the fell-field flowers. It is know as the South Island Edelweiss and with its grey woolly stems and orange flower centres is very similar to the famous Edelweiss of the Swiss Alps. Among other herbaceous species are Oxalis lactea, Ranunculus geraniifolius and the endemic Epilobium cockayneanum (Onagraceae) and Ourisia caespitosa (Plantaginaceae). Various mountain shrubs occur. Endemic species among these include Dracophyllum pronum, Gaultheria depressa (Ericaceae), Hebe evenosa (Plantaginaceae) and the Daphne-like Pimelea gnidia (Thymelaeaceae). Also present are a number of small grasses such as the endemic Poa anceps (Poaceae).

On South Island such as the Southern Alps species of Celmisia, especially the endemic Celmisia coriacea (Asteraceae) are usually the dominant plants. Another feature here are the giant buttercups such as the endemic Ranunculus lyallii (Ranunculaceae). This striking and widespread plant has large, glossy, peltate leaves with stalks up to 45 cm long. Other large ranunculi are the endemic Ranunculus buchanani (Ranunculaceae), which is common in the Fiord district.  Other common species include the endemic Astelia petriei (Asteliaceae), a species that often completely fills snow-patch hollows. The fern-like endemic Anisotome haastii (Apiaceae) and the large endemic ourisias, Ourisia macrophylla and O. macrocarpa (Plantaginaceae) are also characteristic of these formations, and there are occasional shrubs such as the endemic Gaultheria rupestris (Ericaceae) and Hebe subalpina (Plantaginaceae). Another feature of herb-fields in general is the presence of so-called snow tussocks. These are all endemic members of the Gondwanan grass genus Chionochloa (Poaceae), such as the endemic Chionochloa teretifolium confined to parts of Fiordland. The genus has similarities with the South American genus Cortadeira, which also has Gondwanan affinities and now forms a component of the pampas grasslands of Patagonia.

Neozeylandic Typha (Raupo) Swamp

Swamp dominated by Typha angustifolia extends throughout most of New Zealand, but the most diverse stands are in North Island. They range from sea level to about 750 m altitude and can occur on many soil types as long as they are inundated by water. In the best examples, Typha forms dense stands up to 1.8 m tall with dense undergrowth of Isachne australis intermingled with Polygonum serrulatum. Other plants include Cladium teretifolium, Eleocharis sphacelata, Schoenus carsei, Scirpus inundatus, Sparganium subglobosum and various endemic species such as Carex secta (Cyperaceae), Epilobium chionanthum (Onagraceae), Hydrocotyle pterocarpa (Apiaceae) and Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae).

Neozeylandic Sphagnum Bog

Sphagnum bogs in New Zealand are also usually distinguished by copious quantities of Gleichenium circinatum or G. alpina. They can be found, for example, on the west and south of South Island and in parts of Auckland. In places Cladium teretifolium or C. glomeratum are abundant, but in North Auckland and in the Waikato area the unusual bamboo-like endemic Sporodanthus traversii (Juncaceae) occurs often reaching heights of up to 3 m. Low-growing, creeping species of Lycopodium, such as Lycopodium ramulosum, can cover extensive areas, and in bare places or on the sphagnum itself, red rosettes of the insectivorous plant Drosera spathulata may be found. Several species of the insectivorous Utricularia are also common including U. novae-zelandia and the endemic U. delicatula (Lentibulariaceae). Bogs of South Otago and on Stewart Island are remarkable for the many mountain plants they support including several endemic species such as Astelia linearis (Asteliaceae), Celmisia argentea (Asteraceae), Geum leiospermum (Rosaceae), Gunnera prorepens (Gunneraceae), Oreobolus pectinatus (Cyperaceae) and the generic endemic Oreostylidium subulatum (Stylidiaceae). An interesting feature of this species of Gunnera is that its leaves can be almost black.

Neozeylandic Festuca-Poa Tussock-Grassland

Natural or semi-natural examples of this habitat are confined to uplands, stony montane valleys and the flat parts of the Volcanic Plateau, but it is absent in the north of North Island. A number of apparently primeval grasslands possibly owe their existence to the pre-historic burning of forest by the Maori. The dominant tussock species are Poa caespitosa and the endemic Festuca novae-zelandiae (Poaceae). Tussocks can reach 40 cm in height and often touch one another concealing many of the ground layer species. Altogether over 200 indigenous plant species have been recorded in these grassland include many endemic species. The most important and widespread of these are Aciphylla colensoi, Anisotoma aromatica, Oreomyrrhis colensoi (Apiaceae), Coprosma petriei (Rubiaceae), Craspedia uniflora, Helichrysum filicaule, Lagenifera petiolata, Raoulia subsericea, Vittadinia australis (Asteraceae), Discaria toumatou (Rhamnaceae), Epilobium hectorii (Onagraceae), Leucopogon fraseri (Ericaceae), Plantago raoulii (Plantaginaceae), Primelea prostrata (Thymelaeaceae), Ranunculus multiscapus (Ranunculaceae), Viola cunninghamii (Violaceae) and Wahlenbergia albomarginata (Campanulaceae). However, these are often accompanied by a number of exotic species today.

Neozeylandic Vegetated Shingle

Shingle sufficiently stable to support vascular plants is common. The typical plants comprise a number of shoreline halophytes together with several shrubby or herbaceous mat-plants that are not necessarily confined the coast. These include Acaena novae-zelandiae, Festuca littoralis, Lobelia anceps, Mesembryanthemum australis, Meuhlenbeckia complexa, Salicornia australis, Tetragonia expansa and the endemic Carex ternaria (Cyperaceae), Linum monogynum (Linaceae) and Ranunculus acaulis (Ranunculaceae). Where the shingle boulders are large the vegetation becomes very scanty. Here the common plants are halophytes such as Apium prostratum, Calystegia soldanella and the endemic Senecio lautus (Asteraceae). In places terraces of very stable shingle have built up allowing a more varied plant cover. For example, along Nineteen Mile Beach where the Canterbury Plain meets the Pacific Ocean there are mats or cushions of the generic endemic Raoulia lutescens (Asteraceae) together with the rush-like Muehlenbeckia ephedroides and prostrate Carmichaelia subulata. In Cook Strait the species include the endemic Coprosma propinqua (Rubiaceae), Plagianthus divaricatus (Malvaceae) and Raoulia australis (Asteraceae).

Neozeylandic Maritime Cliff Formations

In the most exposed situations the strong halophyte Mesembryanthemum australe often dominates to the exclusion of all other species frequently forming hanging ‘curtains’ of flowering stems. Where there is a degree of shelter in both North and South islands, it is often accompanied by Apium prostratum, Salicornia australis and the endemic Senecio lautus (Asteraceae), and in many places particularly Auckland, Sounds-Nelson and North-western districts the endemic Arthropodium cirrhatum (Laxmanniaceae) can form extensive colonies. In more sheltered areas where there is less sea spray a more varied flora occurs with species such as the endemic Colobanthus muelleri (Caryophyllaceae), Coriaria sarmentosa (Coriariaceae) and Lepidium oleraceum (Brassicaceae).

Neozeylandic Coastal Scrub

These formations comprise a variety of species and species composition varies from place to place. They can be dominated by species of Asteraceae (Olearia or Senecio), species of Hebe, Meulenbeckia complexa or the endemic liana Freycinetia banksii (Pandanaceae). Senecio rotundifolius forms a coastal belt in sheltered areas of Stewart Island and in parts of the Fiord district. In slightly more exposed situations it is replaced by a ‘macrocephalous’ Olearia associations, which may be dominated by either the endemic Olearia angustifolium or O. operina (Asteraceae).  However, a transition between Senecio and Olearia scrub occurs at Mason Bay and on Catfish Island. Here the endemic Griselinia littoralis (Griseliniaceae) becomes more conspicuous and where sufficient light penetrates the scrub canopy, extensive colonies of the generic endemic Stilbocarpa lyallii (Apiaceae) occur. This strange plant has bright green, shiny leaves up to 30 cm in diametre on long stalks up to 90 cm. Hebe scrub occurs in various places such as in the Otago fiords and on the shores of Foveaux Strait. Hebe elliptica is usually the dominant species while other associated scrub species include Nothopanax arboreum and endemic Fuchia excorticata (Onagraceae). Beneath the shrubs are various coastal ferns together with the endemic Astelia nervosa var. sylvestris (Asteliaceae). The usually root climbing liana, Freycinetia banksii can occur as the dominant coastal scrub species all along the west coast of South Island. It can reach 2 m in height and may form an entangled mass with other lianas such as Calystegia tuguriorum and Muehlenbeckia australis. Meulenbeckia complexa scrub occurs in places where coastal hillsides, slope in a shoreward direction such as on the Banks Peninsula.

Northern Neozeylandic Subtropical Rain Forest

Virtually all trees, shrubs and ferns in these forests are evergreen, but the general absence of bright green is said to give them a somber appearance. They are usually highly stratified with at least five tiers, and can generally be divided in four sub-associations distinguished by the dominance Agathis australis (Araucariaceae), Beilschmiedia taraire, B. tawa (Lauraceae) or the co-dominance of Laurelia novae-zelandiae (Monimiaceae) and Rhopalostylis sapida (Arecaceae).  All of these species are endemic to the New Zealand.  In the case Agathis australis (the Kauri)forest, this species is often very conspicuous because of its immense size, and keeps itself clear of epiphytes by shedding bark.  It is an extremely ancient plant dating back to the Jurassic period, and is the only New Zealand member of the Araucariaceae family. Other associated tall trees include the endemic Weinmannia sylvicola (Cunoniaceae). Tree ferns like the endemic Cyathea dealbata (Cyatheaceae) and Dicksonia lanata (Dicksoniaceae) are also very common, while another characteristic feature are dense tussock-thickets of the endemic sedge Gahnia xanthocarpa (Cyperaceae) and the endemic grass Astelia trinerva (Poaceae). Other endemic taxa include Alseuosmia banksii var. linariifolia (Alseuosmiaceae), Metrosideros albiflora (Myrtaceae), Mida salicifolia (Salicifolia)and Pittosporum primeleoides (Pittorsporaceae).

Beilschmiedia taraire forest is mainly confined to areas north of 36 degrees south. They have a fairly open appearance and commonly include Metrosideros robusta, which with its irregular trunks supports large numbers bryophytes and asteliads.  Other common trees include various podocarps such as Podocarpus ferrugineus and the endemic P. totara and Dacrydium cupressinum (Podocarpaceae) together withother endemic taxa like Dysoxylum spectabile (Meliaceae), Knightia excelsa (Proteaceae), and Phyllocladus trichomanoides (Phyllocladaceae), but much rarer are Dacrydium kirkii and the endemic Libocedrus plumosa (Cupressaceae). The undergrowth is rarely dense, but various low trees, shrubs and tree ferns occur such as Cyathea medularis, Suttonia australis and the endemic Alseuosmia macrophylla (Alseuosmiaceae), Pseudowinteria axillaris (Winteraceae)and Coprosma arborea (Rubiaceae). Fallen trunks are often thickly covered with endemic ferns like Hymenophyllum dilitatum with its translucentfronds, and the dark green Trichomanes reniforme (Hymenophyllaceae), while the forest floor includes other endemic ferns like Blechnum filiforme (Blechnaceae) and the vivid green Hymenophyllum demissum (Hymenophyllaceae).

Beilschmeidia tawa forest occurs mainly south of latitude 36, but much of this forest type has been destroyed. According to historical accounts the associated tree species included endemic taxa like Dacrydium cupressinum (Podocarpaceae), Elaeocarpus dentatus (Elaeocarpaceae), Litsaea calicaris (Lauraceae)and Pittospermum tenuifolium (Pittosporaceae) while species in the undergrowth would have included Myrtus bullata and the beautiful Senecio kirkii together with a great variety of ferns and bryophytes. This type of forest also occurs in montane areas where the monotypic endemic Ixerba brexioides (Ixerbaceae) can be found.

The Laurelia-Rhopalostylus association is confined to moist gullies. The endemic Rhopalostylus sapida (Areaceae) is the only member of the palm family found in New Zealand and appears to have established itself here during the Miocene epoch when there was much more of a tropical climate. It is usually trunkless and can dominate certain areas. Other characteristic species include Dryopteris pennigera and various endemics like Aspenium bulbiferum (Aspeniaceae), Dicksonia squarrosa (Dicksoniaceae)and Elatostema rugosa (Urticaceae).

Northern Neozeylandic Metrosideros tomentosa Coastal Forest

Distinguished by the dominance of Metrosideros tomentosa and often by the endemic Corynocarpus laevigata (Corynocarpaceae), these forests extend throughout Auckland. Compared to the inland rainforests, these forests have thinner trunks and their undergrowth is more open. Other important trees include Dodonaea viscosa, Suttonia australis and various endemic or near endemic taxa such as Beilschmeidia taraire (Lauraceae), Hoheria populnea (Malvaceae), Melicytus ramiflorus (Violaceae) and Vitex lucens (Verbenaceae). Tree ferns are represented by Cyathea medullaris and the endemic C. dealbata (Cyatheaceae) and the undergrowth may include Paratrophis microphylla, various species of Coprosma, and the endemic or near endemic Leucopogon fasciculatus (Ericaceae) and Brachyglottis rependa (Asteraceae). Common lianas include Muehlenbeckia australis and species of Freycinetia, and among the epiphytes the huge Astelia banksii is frequent. Ferns are common and include many small species like Adiantum hispidulum, Doodia media and various endemics or near endemics such as Blechnum filiforme (Blechnaceae) and Pteris macilenta (Pteridaceae), while close to streams in the north can be found good examples of the generic endemic herb Colensoa physaloides (Lobeliaceae).

Central Neozeylandic Corynocarpus laevigata Coastal Forest

Coastal forests here are distinguished by the dominance of the endemic Corynocarpus laevigata (Corynocarpaceae) with good examples found on the shores of the Cook Strait and Kapiti Island. Other common trees include Sideroxylon novo-zelandicum and the endemic Entelea arborescens (Malvaceae), Melicytes ramiflorus (Violaceae), Myoporum laetum (Scrophulariaceae) and Olearia furfuracea var. rubicunda (Asteraceae). There is usually a closed “multi-coloured’ canopy with the dark-green of Corynocarpus, yellowish-green of Melicytes ramiflorus, bright-green of Myoporum and dark-grey of Leptospermum scoparium. The principle climbers are Freycinetia and the unusual, endemic, pteridophyte Blechnum filiforme (Blechnaceae), although both of these taxa are also important ground-layer species. Polystichum richardi and the endemic Adiantum fulvum (Pteridaceae) and Asplenum hookerianum (Aspleniaceae) are other important ferns.

Central Neozeylandic Mineral Belt Shrubland

Distinguished by the presence of Olearia serpentina and Leptospermum scoparium this association occupies the lowland-montane part of the mineral belt. This consists of peridotite and serpentine rocks and extends for about 96 km from D’Urville Island to the western part of the Sound-Nelson district, but is never more than about 5 km in width. The associated soils contain more magnesium than most plants can tolerate, and the vegetation is frequently scanty. Nevertheless, it comprises a number of adapted species including several endemics such as Aristolelia fruticosa (Elaeocarpaceae), Coprosma parviflora (Rubiaceae), Cordyline banksii (Laxmanniaceae), Corokia cotoneaster (Argophyllaceae), Dracophyllum longifolium, Gaultheria antipoda (Ericaceae), Halorrhagis erecta (Halorrhagaceae), Libertia ixioides (Iridaceae), Melicope simplex (Rutaceae) and Poa colensoi (Poaceae). These shrublands form a striking contrast to the adjacent luxuriant Nothofagus rain forest with virtually no transition zone between the two.

Southern Neozeylandic Coastal Moor

Confined to south of the South Otago and Stewart Island, this formation largely consists of creeping halophytes and coastal ferns requiring the peaty condition characteristic of the sub Antarctic climate and is regularly exposed to sea-spray. The most important plants are Asperula perpusilla, Cotula pulchella, Montia fontana, Myosotis pygmaea var. traillii, Plantago hamiltonii, Salicornia australis, Samolus aucklandicus and the endemic or near endemic Agrostis muscosa (Poaceae), Blechnum durum (Blechnaceae), Euphrasia repens (Scrophulariaceae) and Rumex neglectus  (Polygonaceae). Plant cover can be extremely dense and is often characterized by round, green, cushions of Euphrasia repens. In the flowering season, the endemic Gentianella saxosa (Gentianaceae) is often conspicuous. On flat sandy ground, west of the New River Estuary, there are transitions to dunes hallow vegetation, which includes endemic or near endemic species such as Acaena microphylla var. pauciglochidiata (Rosaceae), Gunnera arenaria (Gunneraceae) and Raoulia apice-nigra (Asteraceae).

Neozeylandic Coastal Dunes (General)

Sand dunes have been described as New Zealand's most common landform and use to cover some 129,000 ha with some extending for up to 12 miles inland in some places. However, this has now been reduced to about 39 000 ha which equates to something like a 70% reduction. The main losses have been to afforestation. Other losses have been caused by agricultural development, sand mining, urbanisation, uncontrolled grazing, waste disposal and military activities.

The most extensive dunes are on the west coast of North Island, but large areas also occur on the east and north of South Island and on the west of Stewart Island. They can be broadly divided into mobile or semi-mobile dunes, fixed dune grassland, dune scrub and dune slack. In mobile dunes Spinifex hirsutus and the generic endemic Desmoschoenus spiralis (Cyperaceae) are the main sand-binding species, but near Foveaux Strait Festuca littoralis often becomes the primary sand builder. Where semi-stable conditions prevail the rare endemic Euphorbia glauca (Euphorbiaceae) may be encountered. In the case of fixed dune grasslands, very little remains in its primitive status and typically includes many exotic grasses and legumes. Indigenous species include Danthonia semiannularis, Microlaena stipoides and in northern districts Zoysia pungens. Dune scrub is usually distinguished by the endemic Coprosma acerosa (Rubiaceae) and Pimelea arenaria (Thymelaeaceae) although the latter is replaced by the endemic Pimelea lyallii in South Otago and Stewart Island. Dune slacks can be broadly divided into primary and secondary associations. The endemic Gunnera arenaria (Gunneraceae) is often the first arrival on damp sand forming circular patches up to 2 m in diametre. Other characteristic pioneer species include Carex pumila, Epilobium billardieranum, Scirpus cernuus and the endemic Epilobium nerteroides (Onagraceae) and Lilaeopsis novae-zelandica (Apiaceae), while in North Island and in the northern parts of South Island Limosella tenuifolia, Lobelia anceps and the endemic Myriophyllum votschii (Haloragaceae) become important.  In secondary association, shrubs usually dominate with Leptospermum scoparium often forming the main species. Other species on the northern shores of Cook Strait, for example, include Heleocharis cunninghamii and the endemic Potentilla anserinoides (Rosaceae).

North Island Dune Systems (Manawatu)

At the time of European settlement Manawatu dunes were probably fairly stable but grazing by cattle and possible burning caused destabilization and major sand movement. However, the re-establishment of Spinifex and the planting of introduced marram in the 1890s have done much to restore stablility. Four major vegetation types are recognised:

These are usually well developed ranging in height from 3 to 8 metres. Spinifex sericeus is usually the dominant species on seaward faces and in this situation forms a more effective sand binder than marram and has greater tolerance of salt spray. Introduced marram (Ammophila arenaria) can also occur on seaward foredunes and tends to create steeper, high foredunes than Spinifex. The native endemic sedge Desmoschoenus spiralis (Cyperaceae) is also common on foredunes but only flourishes where there is continuing supply of sand and soon succumbs during deflation. On the landward side of foredunes other species such as Cassinia leptophylla, Coprosma acerosa and Pimelea arenaria may be present. 

Dune Slacks (behind foredunes)
Slacks frequently form behind most foredunes. These are nearly all colonised by Carex pumila and Selliera radican.  In damp depressions further inland other pioneer species occur include Limosella lineata, Myriophyllum votschii and Ranunculus acaulis.

Sand Plains
Where water tables are about 30 cm deep Scirpus nodosus becomes one of the main species, but these areas also favour many exotic herbs such as Hypochaeris radicata, Lagurus ovatus, Leontodon taraxacoides, Melilotus indica and Medicago lupulina, while the introduced Lupinus arboreus is more abundant in the dryer areas.  In areas where the water table is closer to the surface Leptocarpus similis predominates together with Cortaderia toetoe, Epilobium billardieranum, Juncus holoschoenus and Schoenus nitens.

Rear Dunes
In the past before marram was introduced these areas did not mature to the same degree since there is no indigenous species ecologically equivalent to marram as a lee stabiliser. 

South Island Dune Systems (Chrystalls Beach)

The dunes here are of particular interest since they still support many native species and dune hollows still retain their largely native cushion plant communities.  Four major vegetation types have been recognised: foredunes, rear dunes, hollow-grass formations and cushion plant formations.

Much of this zone is dominated by the introduced Ammophila arenaria while the introduced Sonchus oleraceus represents the second most important species. In the past the endemic sand binding sedge Desmoschoenus spiralis (Cyperaceae) would have dominated this zone but now usually only occurs as a few scattered patches. It tends to disappear shortly after Ammophila becomes established. Other species found here include the introduced Anthoxanthum odoratum, Cirsium arvense, Cirsium vulgare, Dactylis glomerata, Holcus lanatus, Hypochaeris radicata, Leontodon taraxacoides, Lupinus arboreus Senecio elegans, Trifolium repens, the native Acaena novae-zelandiae, Calystegia soldanella, Isolepis nodosa, Pseudognaphalium luteoalbum, Pteridium esculentum, Senecio biserratus, Stokesiella praelongum, and the endemic Hydrocotyle heteromeria (Apiaceae) and Poa cita (Poaceae)

Occurring between the front and rear dunes this community is dominated by tall grasses but also includes occasional shrubs, smaller species and a few cushion plants. Unfortunatley much of the flora is made up of  exotic species including Agrostis capillaris, Agrostis stolonifera, Ammophila arenaria, Anthoxanthum odoratum, Cerastium fontanum, Cirsium arvense, Cirsium vulgare, Crepis capillaris, Dactylis glomerata, Holcus lanatus, Hypochaeris radicata, Leontodon taraxacoides, Lupinus arboreus, Rubus fruticosus, Rumex acetosella, Solanum dulcamara, Sonchus oleraceus, Stellaria media, Trifolium repens, Trifolium dubium and Ulex europaeus. Scattered native species include Dichelachne crinita, Isolepis nodosa, Muehlenbeckia australis, Muehlenbeckia axillaris, Pteridium esculentum, Senecio biserratus, Stokesiella praelongum and the endemic Cardamine debilis, Hydrocotyle heteromeria, Hydrocotyle novae-zelandiae var. montana, Phormium tenax, Poa cita and Poa maniototo. The vegetation has been divided into five subtypes all of which are dominated by alien invasive species:

Agrostis stolonifera and Rubus fruticosus dominated stands
These occur on flat land at moderate distances from the shore. Ulex europaeus is also common here.

Cerastium fontanum and Holcus lanatus dominated stands
These stands which frequently include Ammophila arenaria are typically found adjacent cushion plant comminities.

Anthoxanthum odoratum, Calystegia soldanella, Dactylis glomerata and Lupinus arboreus dominated stands.
These are found near the rear dunes.

Trifolium repens dominated stands
Found towards the rear of dune hollows these typically include the native grass Dichelachne crinita and the native orchid Microtis unifolia.

Cushion Plant Formations
These form in particular parts of dune hollows and represent the most species rich dune communities. In addition to cushion plants such as the endemic Raoulia australis (Asteraceae), others such as the endemic Geranium sessiliflorum (Geraniaceae) occur as isolated rosettes. Between these the areas are mostly covered by mosses (e.g. Campylopus introflexus and Tortula sp.) and/or patches of quartz pebbles. Other species in this zone include the native Acaena microphylla, Hydrocotyle novae-zeelandiae, Neopaxia australasica, Pernettya macrostigma, Selliera radicans and the endemic Colobanthus muelleri, Epilobium komarovianum, Luzula celata, Myosotis pygmaea var. pygmaea, Pimelea prostrata, Poa maniototo and Scleranthus uniflorus. Common exotic species include Leontodon taraxacoides, Rumex acetosella and Trifolium repens. Taller plants such as Isolepis nodosa mainly occur towards the edges of the cushion zone.

Rear Dunes
Forming a zone at the rear of the dunes the plants here are mainly dominated by the native Isolepis nodosa and the introduced Dactylis glomerata. Other common species include Agrostis capillaris, Pteridium esculentum and the endemic tussock grass Poa cita. Other species include the introduced Anthoxanthum odoratum, Bromus diandrus, Holcus lanatus, Hypochaeris radicata, Lupinus arboreus, Trifolium repens, Ulex europaeus and the native Calystegia soldanella, Dichelachne crinita and Muehlenbeckia australis.

Further information required.


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