Win­dow on Waitakere: Easy bird watch­ing

Walking New Zealand - - Contents -

By Kay Lind­ley You don’t al­ways have to go into the depths of the Ark to en­joy the sight of Waitakere Ranges birds feed­ing – some­times the birds come to you.

Through the win­dow of the Ranger Sta­tion re­cently Ark Man­ager Maj de Poorter and oth­ers had a very close view of an iri­des­cent Tui tak­ing small inky pur­ple fruits from a tall shrub hard against the build­ing in a neigh­bour­ing gar­den.

A few days later Ark in the Park mem­ber Grant Capill and oth­ers were thrilled at a Kereru, only one me­tre above their heads, gorg­ing on the same fruits.

This small tree is a com­mon and im­por­tant mem­ber of the un­der­storey of the for­est and is one of its heav­i­est fruiters, of­ten sur­pass­ing some larger tree species in out­put. It is Ma­pau ( Myr­sine aus­tralis) bear­ing on at­trac­tive red stems its small al­ter­nate leaves with wavy mar­gins.

Bee­tles in large num­bers of­ten chew the young leaves later in the sea­son, pro­vid­ing fur­ther food for birds. A good plant to get to know. Com­monly known as Red Matipo, ma­pau is a species of shrub within the Myr­sine fam­ily.

It is en­demic to New Zealand and found through­out the coun­try and off­shore is­lands. It has crinkly-edged leaves which make it eas­ily mis­taken for a pit­tospo­rum and red­dish bark and stems, how­ever red­dish and pur­plish blotch­ing on leaves is of­ten a dis­tin­guish­ing fac­tor.

Grow­ing to around six me­tres in height, it in­hab­its bush mar­gins and is of­ten planted in re­gen­er­a­tion projects. The bark on a ma­ture trunk is grey. Mapou pro­duce very small black fruit in sum­mer (pop­u­lar with birds) these grow di­rectly on the stem of the plant, not at the end of branches and twigs. It is dis­persed by wax eyes and young seedlings are com­mon around the par­ent tree.

Maori boiled Mapou leaves to make an in­fu­sion (tea) for toothache. They also used the leaves as re­lief for arthritic prob­lems, as a rem­edy for skin dis­ease, in­testi­nal worms and as a gen­eral tonic. The branch wood was used for dig­ging sticks and adze han­dle sock­ets.

In Euro­pean times the hard tim­ber has been used for build­ing, al­though its most pop­u­lar use has prob­a­bly been for fire­wood.

For the op­por­tu­nity to see the Ma­pau in the Waitakere ranges, and to go on the Walk­ing Waitakere Wed­nes­day Walks se­ries, please email me on: kaylind­ley@xtra.co.nz.

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