Rush to save na­tive mistle­toe

Upper Hutt Leader - - FRONT PAGE - DAMIAN GE­ORGE

A de­clin­ing na­tive mistle­toe has been found in Up­per Hutt, and con­ser­va­tion­ists are hur­ry­ing to save it.

The mistle­toe, known as ileosty­lus mi­cran­thus, was un­ex­pect­edly found grow­ing on a tree planted by Greater Welling­ton Regional Coun­cil to pro­vide cover and shade for other na­tive plants.

The only prob­lem is the tree is dying, which means the mistle­toe will also die, so a plan was hatched to move the shrub to Welling­ton’s Zealan­dia eco­sanc­tu­ary and nearby Otar­iWil­ton’s Bush.

Mem­bers of Nga¯ Manu Na­ture Re­serve, Otari-Wil­ton’s Bush and Zealan­dia col­lected fruit from the mistle­toe on Wednes­day, be­fore plant­ing their seeds at Zealan­dia.

The ‘‘host tree’’, a lucerne planted next to State High­way 2 at River Rd, was not ex­pected to sur­vive un­til sum­mer, so there was lit­tle time to act if the mistle­toe was to be pre­served.

Zealan­dia con­ser­va­tion and re­search pro­ject leader Pas­cale Michel said while the plant species was not threat­ened, it was de­clin­ing in Welling­ton.

‘‘We are on a bit of a res­cue mis­sion here to try to spread those plants through­out the Welling­ton re­gion,’’ Michel said.

‘‘They’re quite ripe so it’s a good time of the year to pick them. Usu­ally birds will do that job, but to­day it’s us do­ing the job.’’

Zealan­dia did not have the na­tive species in its eco­sanc­tu­ary, so it was hop­ing the prop­a­ga­tion process would be suc­cess­ful.

‘‘It has been a bit of a rushed process be­cause of the host tree dying.

‘‘We had planned to do this next year but de­cided to rush it a lit­tle bit this year to try and es­tab­lish here at Zealan­dia.

‘‘We’ll most prob­a­bly have an­other go next year as well.’’

Zealan­dia man­ager of con­ser­va­tion and re­search Danielle Shana­han said the mistle­toe plants played an im­por­tant role in the ecosys­tem, as did all plants.

‘‘In this case, the mistle­toe is an ex­cel­lent food source for birds and geckos, and they are an­other struc­tural element in the ecosys­tem. It’s a su­per-con­nected sys­tem.’’

The mistle­toe was found grow­ing on a lucerne tree next to State High­way 2 at River Rd, near the carpark be­tween Moon­shine Rd and Sil­ver­stream Bridge.

Found in all parts of New Zealand and on Aus­tralia’s Nor­folk Is­land, the bushy, yel­low-green shrub grows on other trees, pro­duc­ing clus­ters of tiny green flow­ers and or­ange fruit.

CAM HAYES/ZEALAN­DIA

Nga¯ Manu Na­ture Re­serve su­per­vi­sor Rhys Mills be­gins the process.

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