Wild surprise at Waterview Connection
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.
The leaf stem of the Oakley Creek geranium has hairs that lie flat, rather than upright.