Na­tive red mistle­toe for Christchurch

Christchurch Mail - - OUT & ABOUT - MONIQUE STEELE

Christchurch res­i­dents can look for­ward to shar­ing a tra­di­tional Christ­mas kiss un­der the mistle­toe in the next few years.

The threat­ened na­tive red mistle­toe (Per­ax­illa tetrapetala) was ger­mi­nated in the Christchurch Botanic Gar­dens for the first time this year.

Six­teen red mistle­toe seeds were do­nated to the Gar­dens in June in an at­tempt to help the na­tive plant’s en­dan­gered pop­u­la­tion.

The Botanic Gar­dens team were gifted the seeds by an ecol­o­gist work­ing on na­tive mistle­toe restora­tion projects for beech mistle­toe in Arthur’s Pass, Christchurch City Coun­cil Ecol­o­gist Kristina Mac­don­ald said.

‘‘We were look­ing into all of our na­tive mistle­toe species as part of our Back­yard Mistle­toe project which is aim­ing to re­gen­er­ate green mistle­toe in Christchurch city,’’ Mac­don­ald said.

The seeds were sown to beech trees in the gar­dens in June by col­lec­tion cu­ra­tor Dean Pen­drigh.

‘‘From those 16 seeds we’ve had an amaz­ing 11 seeds show signs of ger­mi­na­tion so we’re in­cred­i­bly ex­cited at what this could mean for the Botanic Gar­dens. This is a threat­ened species in New Zealand and, like the green mistle­toe, it is an in­cred­i­bly at­trac­tive food source for our na­tive birds. To have it ger­mi­nat­ing and po­ten­tially flour­ish­ing in the cen­tral city is in­cred­i­bly ex­cit­ing.’’

She said the clas­si­cally Christ­mas-style bloom­ing mistle­toe flow­ers, which were typ­i­cally only found in moun­tain­ous ar­eas such as the Craigieburn Val­ley, were still ’’a few years away’’.

‘‘It takes a while to es­tab­lish a good con­nec­tion with its host tree,’’ she said.

‘‘Th­ese plants won’t start flow­er­ing for around three years but we’re re­ally hope­ful that along with our green mistle­toe, which is cur­rently ger­mi­nat­ing across the city as part of the Back­yard Mistle­toe project, we’re go­ing to have an abun­dance of won­der­ful na­tive mistle­toe species flour­ish­ing in the gar­dens.’’

Green mistle­toe (Ileosty­lus mi­cran­thus) is cur­rently found around the city in­clud­ing at Styx Re­serve, Port Hills, Banks Penin- sula and in the Botanic Gar­dens.

The green flow­ered na­tive plant was the fo­cus of The Back­yard Mistle­toe Project, a project funded by Friends of the Christchurch Botanic Gar­dens and the Univer­sity of Can­ter­bury, aim­ing to bring na­tive green mistle­toe into ur­ban Christchurch.

SUP­PLIED/DIANA PITTHAM

Red mistle­toe, one of the species of New Zealand na­tive mistle­toe, much favoured as a food source by pos­sums, in flower at Arthur’s Pass.

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