Land of the Long White Cloud23rd December 2016 • Places to Visit • Daniel Carruthers
Botanically, New Zealand is an extraordinary country. Because it drifted off from the rest of the world so early on, its natural flora is very limited and with the exception of the red flowers of the Metrosideros (New Zealand Christmas Tree), flowers tend to be insignificant, with a natural wooded landscape that is predominantly a mixture of trees in many shades of green and tree ferns. It’s not really surprising that the settlers wanted to introduce some colour – either with plants that reminded them of home, or with more exotic species – all of which thrive in the climate.
As a result, many of the roadside weeds are what we consider desirable plants in our own gardens. There’s a double pink rose that is as common as our dog rose growing in the hedges and along the field edges, agapanthus are considered an invasive weed and the beautiful wild carrot Daucus carota that I nurture carefully for summer display in my borders, grows thickly and decoratively on the verges, but is listed as an agricultural pest.
Mixed in amongst native cordylines, pittosporum, pampas grass and phormiums there are gingers and cannas from Asia and Red Hot Pokers from South Africa.
In the towns of the warm Northland, the streets are lined with Jacarandas, Metrosideros, Bougainvillia and occasionally Clianthus – commonly called Kaka Beak – another colourful native tree. I’ve seen clianthus as a wall shrub, but never previously seen it as a large tree. It is quite a spectacular sight.