Long hike to check on rare, en­dan­gered beauty

Waikato News - - NEWS -

A Univer­sity of Waikato stu­dent is re­search­ing an ob­scure, en­dan­gered and na­tive plant on Mt Piron­gia.

Bi­ol­ogy stu­dent Monique Hall, 25, is re­search­ing the dacty­lan­thus tay­lorii for an un­der­grad­u­ate sum­mer re­search schol­ar­ship. She’s been hik­ing to Mt Piron­gia’s sum­mit, mon­i­tor­ing the Hi­hikiwi ridge­line, once a week since Novem­ber.

The dacty­lan­thus tay­lorii is New Zealand’s only fully par­a­sitic flow­er­ing plant. It is also na­tive only to New Zealand.

Monique has been re­search­ing the flow­er­ing pe­riod and the flower’s pol­li­na­tors.

“I’m re­search­ing the plant to learn more about it and ul­ti­mately pro­tect it,” she says.

She de­scribes the dacty­lan­thus tay­lorii as mys­te­ri­ous and rare.

The plant has been clas­si­fied as threat­ened and in se­ri­ous de­cline.

It lives off the roots of host trees, has no leaves and only emerges above ground to pro­duce a clus­ter of flow­ers with large amounts of nec­tar.

The flower’s Te Reo Ma¯ori names are Pua o te Reinga (flower of the un­der­world), and Wae­wae atua (toes/fin­gers of gods), Monique says in her re­port.

Dacty­lan­thus tay­lorii is found in sev­eral lo­ca­tions across the North Is­land and on Lit­tle Bar­rier Is­land.

It is pri­mar­ily pol­li­nated by the en­dan­gered short-tailed bat.

The short-tailed bat, how­ever, is thought to be ex­tinct on Mt Piron­gia.

De­spite this, re­cent mon­i­tor­ing by the Piron­gia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restora­tion So­ci­ety in­di­cates the Piron­gia flow­ers are suc­cess­fully set­ting seed.

Monique’s re­search re­sults con­firm the ab­sence of short­tailed bats near the sum­mit of Mt Piron­gia.

She dis­cov­ered that ship rats are feed­ing on the nec­tar of the flow­ers and are likely to be the pri­mary pol­li­na­tor, along with many in­sects.

Monique’s find­ings will be shared with Piron­gia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restora­tion So­ci­ety, Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion, Pu¯ rekireki Marae, Waikato Botan­i­cal So­ci­ety and Univer­sity of Waikato.

(Right): Univer­sity of Waikato stu­dent Monique Hall with a caged dacty­lan­thus tay­lorii. The cage pro­tects it from pos­sums.

Close-up of a dacty­lan­thus flower.

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