Wild sur­prise at Water­view Con­nec­tion

Auckland City Harbour News - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS “A FRENCH CONNECTION” - JOHN AN­THONY

NZTA says it has found a new flower but a tax­onomist says he dis­cov­ered the species more than a decade ago. Ei­ther way, it could be New Zealand’s rarest na­tive plant.

NZTA said a small pale pink flower had been found bloom­ing on the banks of Auck­land’s Oak­ley Creek, which runs along­side the Water­view Tun­nel.

The flower caught the eye of botanists who be­lieved it may be a new, pre­vi­ously uniden­ti­fied na­tive species of gera­nium, NZTA said.

How­ever, De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion prin­ci­pal sci­en­tist Peter De Lange said he dis­cov­ered the flower 12 years ago at the top of Oak­ley Creek.

The sci­en­tific name for the plant was Gera­nium aff. retror­sum ‘‘Oak­ley Creek’’, he said. But it was yet to be con­firmed whether it was a pre­vi­ously uniden­ti­fied na­tive species or in­tro­duced from Aus­tralia, he said.

While it was good NZTA had ac­knowl­edged the species, he en­cour­aged the agency to put money to­wards for­mally iden­ti­fy­ing it. About $10,000 to $15,000 would do it, he said.

There was a 50:50 chance of the plant be­ing na­tive, he said.

There could be as many as 20 gera­nium in New Zealand but only eight had been for­mally iden­ti­fied.

NZTA said na­tive gera­ni­ums tended to have swollen roots which was an adap­ta­tion to dry, sandy soils. How­ever, the Oak­ley Creek gera­nium had a nar­rower cen­tral and dom­i­nant root per­haps re­flect­ing mois­ture lev­els along the creek.

It also had leaf stem hairs that lie flat, rather than upright, which was un­usual.

Water­view Con­nec­tion ecol­o­gist Kathryn Longstaff said ’’The genus is rare around New Zealand and to find one that is not quite like the oth­ers, that’s ex­cit­ing, even if it turns out to be an in­tro­duced one.’’

Part of the Water­view Con­nec­tion project in­volved restor­ing Oak­ley Creek.

Phil Goff has also ded­i­cated some of his 1 mil­lion trees ini­tia­tive to­wards the creek.

The area was re­cov­er­ing and plants now line the creek’s banks.

The gera­ni­ums were fenced off and seeds were col­lected and prop­a­gated at Auck­land’s Ora­tia Na­tive Nurs­ery.

Since then 1400 Oak­ley Creek seedlings had been planted along the creek.

SUPPLIED

The leaf stem of the Oak­ley Creek gera­nium has hairs that lie flat, rather than upright.

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