Designing garden for endangered plant
It likes chaos, might easily be mistaken for a weed and is so endangered, it’s been dubbed ‘Hobsonville’s kakapo’.
Epilobium hirtigerum is right on Hobsonville Point’s doorstep, and a group of students from the secondary school is designing a garden to protect it.
Year 12 students Gus Clelland, Aubrie Mitchell and Kane Tipene have been working on the design since mid-2016 as part of their school’s project learning - real world projects involving the community.
Epilobium - or ‘epi’ as it’s known - is a native herbaceous willowherb and needs disturbed ground to grow.
It’s critically threatened and is so rare that not much is known about it.
Large clusters of the plant were discovered at a site near a nursery at Scott Point in 2008. Several years later Auckland Council began actively trying to restore the patch.
Gus, Aubrie and Kane all worked on designs for a garden as a part of a larger class activity, however, picked it up again for their personal learning project in 2016 and ‘‘started from scratch’’.
The students say their design has changed a lot, with less concrete and more nature, letting the plants act as the park’s base.
‘‘It kind of changed from being a structured park with different areas, to it being more of a freeflowing experience,’’ Gus says.
The students also needed to allow enough open space for diggers to enter the garden to ‘scrape’ away other plants encroaching on room needed for the epilobium to germinate successfully.
They’ve tracked their progress so far with Auckland Council’s biodiversity advisor, infrastructure and environmental services Chris Ferkins, who says their work shows a high level of skill, especially working in an area without clear definitions, which also carries the remnants human activity.
The group have spoken at the Upper Harbour Local Board’s community forum and will try to raise further awareness about plant with an exhibition at the ‘Come Fly With Me’ festival in April. of
Community consultation on the future of the park will take place later in the year, where the students will be able to show their ideas. Two former Unitec students have also been doing research into epilobium to find out how it best grows and which species complement it.