Rush to save native mistletoe
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.
Nga¯ Manu Nature Reserve supervisor Rhys Mills begins the process.