General Characteristics of the Mixed Forest.
With one or two exceptions the trees are evergreen, and consist of many species belonging to diverse families. Occasionally the bases
Fig. 7.—Base of Kahikatea (Podocarpus dacrydioides), showing the rounded buttresses. Ancient forest of Canterbury Plain, Riccarton.
[Photo, L. Cockayne.
of the trunks develop plank-like buttresses (fig. 7
), and their uppermost roots frequently stretch over the forest-floor, half-buried, or at times raised high above the ground. Such roots and bases of the trees are closely covered with mosses and liverworts. In their interstices humus lodges, in which many ferns and seedling plants find a fitting home.
The forest is made up of different layers, if we consider the general level of the foliage. The tall trees form the uppermost layer; the page 27smaller trees and tallest shrubs the second; smaller shrubs, tree-ferns, and juvenile trees the third; and finally comes the forest-floor, with its carpet of mosses, liverworts, and filmy ferns, through which grow the smaller ferns and herbs. A most important feature of the forests is afforded by the climbing-plants, or lianes, as they are often called, which, rope-like, hang from the tree-tops, form an impenetrable tangle, or gracefully entwine the smaller trees and shrubs.
Tree-ferns, sometimes 20 ft. or 30 ft. in height, with enormous feathery leaves like giant umbrellas, frequently occur, often in groups
Fig. 8.—Lichens growing on the trunk of the Kamahi (Weinmannia racemosa). Forest of Milford Sound.
Photo, L. Cockayne.
and groves. Close-growing, small-leaved, shrubs of dense habit form thickets. On tree-fern stems, on fallen trees, and even on the forest-floor are sheets of delicate filmy ferns. Lichens of great size, white or golden or dusky, abound (fig. 8
). Perched high up in the forest-roof, in the forks of the branches are bird-nest-like masses, several feet in circumference, of a plant of the lily family (kahakaha, Astelia Solandri
) (fig. 9
). Long fronds of ferns and lycopods several feet in length hang drooping from the boughs, and certain orchids, with aerial roots, and page 28
Fig. 9.—The Epiphyte, Astelia salandri, growing on erect trunk of the Taraire (Beilschmiedia tarairi). Waipoua Kauri Forest.
Lands Department.] [Photo, L. Cockayne.
shrubs of various kinds, too, grow high on other trees, whose boughs thus support veritable gardens. In some few cases the flowers of. a tree are produced on the thick branches, as in the kohekohe (Dysoxylum spectabile
), and not, as usual, from amongst the leaves. Now, should a botanist knowing nothing of New Zealand read this description, he would at once conclude it was no account of the forest of a temperate climate, but of one in the tropics. And this is quite true: the common 'forest of New Zealand, owing partly to its origin but far more to the moist and equable climate, must be classed with the tropical, not with the temperate forests.