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The Vegetation of New Zealand

Chapter II. — The leading Physiognomic Plants and their Life-forms

Chapter II.
The leading Physiognomic Plants and their Life-forms.

a. Forest Plants.
Tall or medium-sized trees.

Agathis australis Salisb. (Araucariac.), kauri, is 24 to 30 m. high, or more; its trunk massive, straight, columnar, 1 to 4 m. diam. (6.5 m. has been recorded), unbranched for 15 to 21 m., covered with thick, shining, grey bark; its head spreading with the primary branches some 60 cm. diam., and the leaves linear-oblong to ovate-oblong, about 3.7 cm × 1.2 cm., dark-green and thick.

Alectryon excelsum Gaertn. (Sapindac.), titoki, is from 12 to 18 m. high with a straight trunk some 60 cm. diam. covered with black bark, leaves unequally pinnate, 12 to 30 cm. long, with 4 to 6 pairs of pinnae which are rather thin, glossy bright-green above and beneath, ovate-lanceolate, acuminate, entire, or obscurely toothed, each 5 to 10 cm. long, rusty pubescent beneath, and showy fruits in much-branched panicles, the open capsule bearing a shining-black, globose seed embedded in a fiery scarlet, granulated, fleshy cup.

Beilschmiedia taraire (A. Cunn.) Benth. et Hook. f. (Laurac.), taraire, page 121is 15 to 24 m. high with a straight, usually slender trunk covered with reddish or reddish-brown bark; a small, dense crown, and leaves obovate to broadly-oblong, 12.5 cm. long by 7.5 cm. broad, entire, dark-green, slightly glossy, coriaceous, bluishwhite beneath. It is physiognomic mainly in the North Auckland district.

Beilschmiedia tawa (A. Cunn.) Benth. et Hook. f, tawa, is 12 to 24 m. high with a trunk 30 cm. to 1.2 m. diam. covered with smooth, blackish bark, slender branches, willow-like, thin leaves 7 to 8 cm. long, yellowish-green above but glaucous beneath.

Dacrydium cupressinum Sol. (Podocarpac.), rimu, red-pine, is from about 21 to 30 m. high with a straight, massive trunk up to 1.5 m. diam., covered with flaking, thick, dark-brown bark, a rather small, yellowish head of pendulous branchlets and linear, acute, adpressed leaves some 2 mm. long.

Elaeocarpus dentatus (J. R. et G. Forst.) Vahl (Elaeocarpac.), hinau, is from 12 to 18 m. high with a straight trunk 30 to 90 cm. diam. covered with greyish bark, a medium-sized head with the leaves usually confined to the tips of the branchlets, slightly glossy dark-green leaves linear-oblong to obovate-oblong, petiolate, 5 to 10 cm. long, obscurely-toothed, coriaceous, whitish beneath, and fair-sized, drooping, white flowers.

Elaeocarpus Hookerianus Raoul, pokaka, is 6 to 12 m. high with the trunk 30 to 90 cm. diam. covered with pale bark, the leaves linear-oblong, sinuate-crenate, obtuse, 5 to 7.5 cm. long, coriaceous and flowers smaller than in E. dentatus.

Knightia excelsa R. Br. (Proteac.), rewarewa, honeysuckle, is 21 to 30 m. high with a straight trunk covered with very dark, smooth bark, and in its fastigiate habit resembling the Lombardy poplar; the leaves are short-petioled, linear-oblong to obovate-oblong, 12 to 20 cm. long, dark-green above, bright-green beneath, distantly, coarsely and bluntly toothed with large (± 8.5 mm.) teeth and, in texture almost woody.

Laurelia novae-zelandiae A. Cunn. (Monimiac.), puketea, is sometimes 36 m. hight with a trunk up to 1.8 m. diam. covered with whitish bark, and with wide plank-buttresses at its base, a fair-sized crown, glossy green foliage and more or less oblong leaves 3 to 7.5 cm. long, coriaceous and coarsely toothed.

Metrosideros lucida (Forst. f.) A. Rich. (Myrtac.), southern-rata, is at times 18 m. high, but usually far less, with an irregular trunk up to 1.8 m. diam. covered with papery, pale bark which hangs in long strips, a head of far-extending branches and lanceolate, acuminate leaves 1.8 to 7 cm. long, very coriaceous, glossy bright-green and dotted beneath with oil-glands; there is profusion of bright-crimson flowers.

Metrosideros robusta A. Cunn., rata, northern-rata, is occasionally 30 m. high with a most irregular trunk formed of roots more or less closely united (see epiphytes in the next chapter) covered with bark much as for M. lucida, page 122the branches far-spread, the head dense and vivid green, and the leaves of a broad-oblong type about 2.7 cm. long, flat, stiff, rather thick, dark-green but paler beneath; there is profusion of dark-scarlet flowers.

Nothofagus fusca (Hook, f.) Oerst. (Fagac.), red southern-beech, is 18 to 30 m. high with a massive trunk up to 2.5 m. diam. covered with dark, thick, deeply-furrowed bark, a fairly large, bright-green crown and rather thin, bright-green, deeply and sharply toothed leaves, 2.5 cm. long of an ovate type. This species crosses freely with N. cliffortioides making the great hybrid swarm, × N. cliffusca.

Nothofagus Solandri (Hook f.) Oerst., black southern-beech, is 12 to 24 m. high with the trunk up to 1.2 m. diam. covered with dark furrowed bark, a rather dense head and linear-oblong, entire, obtuse leaves some 12 mm. long, cuneate at the base, dark-green, coriaceous, whitish-tomentose beneath. It crosses freely with N. truncata — a species very close to N. fusca — making the hybrid swarm × N. soltruncata.

Podocarpus dacrydioides A. Rich. (Podocarpac.), kahikatea, white-pine, is up to 36 m. high with a long, straight trunk 0.60 to 1.2 m. diam. covered with greyish-brown bark, a head small out of all proportion to the size of the tree, leaves subulate-lanceolate, acuminate, 6 mm. long, imbricating and adpressed; in autumn the abundant red fruits are physiognomic.

Podocarpus ferrugineus Don, miro; P. spicatus R. Br., matai, black-pine; and P. totara A. Cunn., totara, somewhat resemble gigantic yew trees; all have short, linear leaves but those of the first two are green and distichous, while those of P. totara are spirally arranged, yellowish-green and coriaceous. All are tall and massive but P. totara may exceed 30 m. in height and 1,8 m. diam. P. Hallii is similar to P. totara but smaller and with thin bark.

Weinmannia racemosa L. f. (Cunoniac), towai, kamahi, is up to 27 m. high with a massive irregular trunk covered with pale bark, a compact, fairly broad crown, oblong-lanceolate to orbicular-ovate leaves 2.5 to 10 cm. long, coarsely obtusely-serrate and dull or yellowish green and abundant racemes of pinkish-white flowers.

Weinmannia sylvicola Sol. ex A. Cunn., tawhero, resembles W. racemosa but it is smaller and the leaves are 3-foliolate or pinnate.

Small trees and tall shrubs.

Ascarina lucida Hook. f. (Chloranthac.), physiognomic in the Western district, is a low, bushy-tree with almost black bark and extremely glossy green, oblong, serrate leaves 2.5 to 5 cm. long.

Brachyglottis repanda J. R. et G. Forst. (Compos.), rangiora, is up to 6 m. high with numerous, spreading white-tomentose branches, large, thin, wavy or lobed, broadly oblong leaves up to 30 cm. long, dull-green above, milk-white tomentose beneath with conspicuous, raised veins; flower-heads white, sweet-scented m great showy panicles in early spring.

Carpodetus serratus J. R. et G, Eorst. (Saxifrag.), putaputawheta, is page 123at most 9 m. high with trunk 15-to 22 m. diam., dense crown of spreading branches, rather thin ovate-oblong, serrate leaves 2 to 4 cm. long, dark-green above the veins and yellowish-green between; flowers white and abundant.

Coprosma foetidissima J. R. et G. Forst. (Rubiac.), hupiro, is a graceful twiggy shrub with spreading, slender, pale branches arching towards the ground, rather distant sub-coriaceous, more or less oblong, pale-green leaves 2.5 to 5 cm. long and showy orange drupes. It crosses freely with C. Colensoi, C Banksii, C. Astoni and their hybrids.

Coprosma grandifolia Hook. f., kanono, is a stout bushy shrub up to 4 m. high with rather thin slightly glossy or dull darkish-green, broadly-oblong leaves 10 to 22 cm. long and large reddish-orange drupes. C. lucida Forst. f., karamu, is similar but the leaves are obovate, smaller, coriaceous and glossy; also C. robusta Raoul is much like the last but with narrower leaves. Apparently all cross amongst themselves and C. robusta × propinqua makes the great swarm × C. prorobusta.

Coprosma rotundifolia A. Cunn. is occasionally a small tree 6 m. high with pale, slender spreading branches, distant broadly-oblong, thin, pubescent leaves about 2 cm. long and dull-red drupes in abundance.

Fuchsia excorticata (J. R. et G. Forst.) L. f. (Onagrac.), kotukutuku, is more or less deciduous and has a maximum height of 12 m., an irregular, often massive, sometimes semiprostrate trunk covered with papery bark which hangs in strips, thin, more or less lanceolate leaves 5 to 10 cm. long, green above but silvery beneath and black, succulent berries which are freely eaten by the indigenous pigeon.

Griselinia littoralis Raoul (Cornac.), papaumu, broadleaf, is round-headed, 15 m. high at most, with a gnarled, irregular, short trunk, rough furrowed bark, and thick, glossy, yellowish-green, ovate or obovate leaves 2.5 cm. to 10 cm. long.

Hedycarya arborea J. et G. Forst. (Monimiac.), porokaiwhiri, is at most 12 m. high with a moderately stout trunk, pale-grey furrowed bark, dark-green, shining, coriaceous, oblong leaves 5 to 10 cm. long, the midrib brown yellowish-green flowers and bright-red drupes.

Hoheria angustifolia Raoul; H. populnea A. Cunn.; and H. sexstylosa Col. (Malvac.), houhere, lacebark, are graceful with slender, erect trunks, tough bark (can be pulled off in long strips) and abundant showy, white flowers. The leaves of H. angustifolia are thin, linear-oblong, spinulose-toothed, ± 5 cm. long; of H. populnea, ovate, ± 8 cm. long, coriaceous, toothed; and of H. sexstylosa lanceolate, up to 12 cm. long, acuminate, deeply-toothed and thicker than those of H. angustifolia. Between the last-named and H. sexstylosa is a hybrid swarm. The species bloom at different times.

Melicytus ramiflorus J. R. et G. Forst. (Violac.), mahoe, is 5 to 9 m. page 124high with rounded, dense crown, trunk 30 to 60 cm. diam., leaves oblong-lanceolate, 5 to 12 cm. long, bluntly serrate, green or yellowish-green and berries small, abundant, violet in colour and produced on the naked twigs.

Myrtus bullata Sol. ex A. Cunn. (Myrtac), ramarama, usually a bushy shrub but sometimes a small tree 6 m. high, has leaves strongly blistered above, reddish-brown, broadly-ovate or orbicular-ovate, 5 to 10 cm. long, concave beneath. It crosses freely with M. obcordata forming the great polymorphic hybrid swarm, X M. bullobcordata.

Nothopanax arboreum (Forst. f.) Seem. (Araliac), whauwhaupaku, ivytree, is at most 7 m. high with slender trunk, dense rounded head, longpetioled digitately 5-to 7-foliolate leaves with leaflets more or less oblong, 7.5 to 17 cm. long, dark-green, shining, coriaceous, serrate and black fruits in conspicuous compound umbels. It occasionally crosses with Pseudopanax crassifolium var. unifoliolatum.

Paratrophis microphylla (Raoul) Ckn. (Morac), turepo, milk-tree, is 4.5 to 12 m. high with trunk seldom more than 30 cm. diam., bark whitish, much lenticelled, and coriaceous dark-green oblong-ovate to elliptic leaves, ± 2.5 cm. long. The juvenile of the divaricating life-form is far more physiognomic than the adult.

Pennantia corymbosa J. R. et G. Forst. (Icacinac), kaikomako, is about 10.5 m. high with slender trunk, close crown, leaves oblong to obovate, 2.5 to 12 cm. long, dark-green, irregularly toothed or sinuate, obtuse and abundant white flowers. The juvenile of the divaricating-form is also physiognomic.

Pittosporum eugenioides A. Cunn. (Pittosporac.), tarata, lemonwood, is 6 to 12 m. high with slender trunk, pale bark, rounded crown, glossy-green, rather thin, undulate, elliptic leaves, 5 to 10 cm. long, and showy compound umbels of fragrant yellow flowers.

Pittosporum tenuifolium Banks et Sol. ex Gaertn., kohuhu, is the name applied to various trees of similar form, making, with the numerous hybrids between them, a huge linneon. The slender trunk is 6 to 9 m. high with black bark, and bears a small dense crown; the leaves are oblong to elliptic-ovate, 2.5 to 5 cm. long, palish-green or mottled with brown, rather thin, glabrous, undulate and acute.

Plagianthus betulinus A. Cunn. (Malvac.), lowland ribbonwood, is deciduous, with trunk occasionally 90 cm. diam., dark-brown smooth bark, dense twiggy crown, leaves ovate to ovate-lanceolate 2.5 to 7 cm. long, bright-green, thin, slightly hairy, coarsely-toothed, acuminate and bears conspicuous masses of small, yellowish flowers.

Pseudopanax crassifolium (Sol. ex A. Cunn.) C. Koch var. unifoliolatum T. Kirk (Araliac), horoeka, lancewood, is 6 to 12 m. high with a straight, furrowed naked trunk up to 45 cm. diam., small rounded crown, leaves page 125linear to linear-obovate 7.5 to 12 cm. long, dark-green, stiff, coriaceous, entire or ± toothed and usually obtuse.

Rhopalostylis sapida (Sol. ex Forst. f.) Wendl. et Drude, (Palmae), nikau, nikau-palm, is a tuft-tree 1.8 to 7.5 m. high with a greenish, smooth, slender trunk 14 to 22 cm. diam. marked with pale rings of old leaf-scars, 2.5 cm. apart and radiating upwards and outwards near its apex, a crown of large, shining, dark-green pinnate leaves 1.2 to 2.4 m. long, the midrib green and very stout but its secondary branches yellow, the leaflets numerous, linear-ensiform 60 to 90 cm. long or more.

Schefflera digitata J. R. et G. Forst. (Araliac.), pate, is 3 to 7.5 m. high with straight, slender, spreading branches, long-petioled (5 to 20 cm.), digitately 7-to 10-foliolate leaves with the leaflets oblong-lanceolate or obovate-lanceolate, 7.5 to 17 cm. long, thin, soft, glabrous, sharply serrate and acuminate, and large umbels of small, black, fleshy globose fruits.

Suttonia australis A. Rich. (Myrsinac.), mapou, is about 6 m. high, of dense twiggy habit with black bark (red or purple on twigs), leaves oblong to obovate-oblong 2.5 to 5 cm. long, pale dull-green, subcoriaceous, glabrous, undulate, obtuse, and small black fruits.

Suttonia salicina Hook. f., toro, is 5 to 9 m. high with slender trunk, black bark, rounded crown, leaves linear, 7.5 to 21 cm. long, glossy, yellowish-green, smooth, glabrous, subcoriaceous, and small yellowish-white flowers on the naked twigs.

Wintera axillaris Forst. f. (Winterac.), horopito, is 3.6 to 7.5 m. high with slender trunk rarely 30 cm. diam., black bark, twiggy crown, leaves elliptic-oblong, 5 to 12 cm. long, glossy, dark-green, glaucous beneath, subcoriaceous, glabrous. W. colorata (Raoul) Ckn. is hardly a tree, its leaves are shorter, thicker and more glaucous beneath than those of W. axillaris and blotched purple above. It ascends to the subalpine belt. Apparently the 2 species cross freely.

Other conspicuous species.

Astelia (Liliac.) includes five large tussock-like herbs with green, coriaceous, long, linear, grass-like leaves usually about 2.5 cm. wide, two of which (A. Solandri, A. Cunning hamii), perched high on the branches of lofty trees, resemble gigantic nests of birds. A. nervora Banks et Sol. ex Hook. f. var. sylvestris Ckn. et Allan is abundant on the forest floor and the var. grandis (Hook. f. ex T. Kirk) Ckn. et Allan on much wetter ground, and A. trinervia T. Kirk, kauri-grass, more than 1 m. high, makes dense thickets in Auckland forests and those in the north-west of the North-western district (according to A. W. Wastney).

Divaricating-shrubs (Fig. 31) are those having more or less wiry or rigid stems which branch at a wide angle and are densely interlaced. Usually the leaves are very small. Many species of Coprosma (Rubiac.), Melicope simplex (Rutac.), Melicytus micranthus (Violac.), Nothopanax anomalum (Araliac.) and Suttonia divaricata (Myrsinac.) are familiar examples; page 126also the persistent juvenile forms of various trees — some already noted — are greatly in evidence.

Ferns (Filices), as a whole, are of particular physiognomic importance. The most conspicuous are the tree-ferns, especially Cyathea dealbata Sw., silver tree-fern; C medullaris Sw., black tree-fern, sometimes 15 m. high and the fronds 6 m. long, Hemitelia Smithii Hook; Dicksonia squarrosa Sw., weki, slender and not particularly tall; and Dicksonia fibrosa Col. (Fig. 23). Of the smaller ferns Blechnum discolor (Forst. f.) Mett. is specially physiognomic, occurring as it does in far-extending dense colonies. The linear-lanceolate fronds 30 to 60 cm. long, glossy-green above but pale beneath are tufted at the apex of the short trunk and so make a deep goblet.

Gahnia (Cyperac.) contains 7 forest species which form huge green grass-like tussocks culminating in those 3.6 m. high of G. xanthocarpa.

Woody lianes strongly accentuate the tropical appearance of lowland forest and are particularly abundant in rain-forest proper. In many places their "ropes" hang swinging from the tree-tops, solitary or intertwined Those of Rubus australis (Rosac.), Rhipogonum scandens (Liliac.) and Muehlenbeckia australis (Polygonac.) are of prime physiognomic importance, those of the first-named covered with rough, brown bark and, at times, 8 cm. diam., and of the second smooth, black and jointed.

Freycinetia Banksii (Pandanac), of Pandanus-form, clothes great trunks with its rooting stiff stems and yellow-blotched sword-like leaves. The root-climbing species of Metrosideros also play a most important part in draping trunks and tree-fern stems. Clematis indivisa, when in bloom, forms dazzling sheets of white on low trees and tall shrubs.

b. Plants of shrubland, heath, swamp, bog, grassland and rock.

Blechnum procerum (Spreng.) J. C. Anders. (Filices), with its great bright-green or dark-green pinnate leaves 1.2 m. long and broad in proportion arching downwards, covers steep slopes for many square metres at a time; to this fern, indeed, do certain river-gorges owe much of their value as tourist resorts.

Cordyline australis (Forst. f.) Hook, f., (Liliac), ti, tikauka, cabbage-tree, is a typical tuft-tree with straight, erect naked trunk some 6 m. high, but occasionally much higher, and 30 to 60 cm. diam., fissured rough bark, green, coriaceous, glabrous, acuminate, ensiform leaves about 90 cm. long by 5 cm. broad closely tufted near the apex of the trunk, the inner erect and semi-erect, the outer drooping, and immense drooping or erect panicles 60 to 120 cm. long by 30 to 60 cm. through, of numerous crowded white flowers of a luscious rather cloying scent.

Coriaria arborea Lindsay (Coriariac.), tree-tutu, is a bushy shrub or small tree ± 7 m. high with stiff stems, glossy-green, rather thin, acute, ovate leaves ± 5 cm. long and drooping racemes some 15 cm. long of small, page 127black, succulent fruits. C. sarmentosa Forst. f., tutu, is similar but summergreen only. The genus consists in New Zealand of many jordanons and hybrids in profusion.

Gleichenia circinata Sw. (Filices) has a slender far-creeping rhizome and erect bright-green fronds 30 to 60 cm. high, or more of the usual Gleichenia-form, the horizontal pinnae one above the other, which stand side by side more or less interlaced for many square metres at a time.

Hebe salicifolia (Forst. f.) Pennell (Scrophulariac.) consists of a number of jordanons all of which are erect bushy-shrubs, some reaching nearly 4 m in height, with straight, slender branches, slightly yellowish-brown smooth bark, bright-green, rather thin,-almost glabrous, acuminate, lanceolate leaves frequently about 10 cm. long, but differing according to the variety, and slender racemes, ± 12 cm. long of numerous, fragrant, lilac-tinged flowers.

Hypolaena lateriflora Benth. (Restionac.) forms close masses of extremely slender, much-branched, wiry, flexuous, interlacing, leafless stems ± 70 cm high.

Leptospermum scoparium J. R. et G. Forst. (Myrtac.), manuka, red tea-tree, tea-tree, is sometimes a small tree, but its physiognomic status is that of an erect shrub of more or less fastigiate habit, finally 3.6 m. or more high, with a stout main-stem, reddish-brown bark which may hang in ribbons, slender more or less vertical branches which give off numerous close-growing twigs bearing abundant, small dark-green, aromatic, coriaceous, pungent, lanceolate to ovate leaves 5 to 12 mm. long, greyish in the mass, and abundant white flowers ± 1 cm. or more diam. L. ericoides A. Rich., kanuka, white tea-tree — "white" and "red" for the two species of Leptospermum refer only to the colour of the wood — is similar to L. scoparium but considerably taller and its leaves are not pungent and its flowers smaller but in great profusion.

Phormium tenax J. R. et G. Forst. (Liliac), harakeke, New Zealand flax, in a wide sense is a tall Iris-like herbaceous plant forming somewhat bunched-together tussock-like masses of erect or partly drooping leaves 1 to 2.5 m. or more long by 6 to 12 cm. broad, rather dull-green above, but somewhat silvery beneath, coriaceous tough, flexible, but the individuals of the linneon differ much in all these points; the margin is frequently stained brown. The major part of the leaf is flat, but at a greater or shorter distance from the base the two halves of the blade are equitant making a kind of petiole. There is a stout leaf-bearing, creeping rhizome which branches near the apex. The scape, stout, reddish-purple, often more or less glaucous with wax and, raised above the foliage, bears numerous dull-red flowers 3 to 5 cm. in length which are succeeded by dark-coloured erect or semi-erect capsules, 5 to 10 cm. long. When in company with P. Colensoi polymorphic hybrids are present.

Pteridium esculentum (Forst. f.) Ckn. (Filices), rau-aruhe, bracken, is probably rather a variety of the cosmopolitan P. aquilinum, but as it is page 128confined to the Southern Hemisphere, it is convenient to name it as above. Its life-form is too well-known to need description. The leaves are frequently-more than 1.75 m. long.

Tussock-grasses are amongst the most striking features of the vegetation and of these Festuca novae-zelandiae J. B. Armstg. and Poa caespitosa Forst. f. rank with forest-trees as of physiognomic importance. Their life-form resembles the head of an old-fashioned besom. Culms and leaves are tightly bunched together and, extremely tight at the base, are looser above and spread or droop laterally to some extent. The apical portions of the leaves are frequently dead and there is also much dead material within the tussock. More widely-spread, but never filling the whole landscape, are the great tussocks of Arundo conspicua Forst. f., toetoe, which greatly resemble those of pampas-grass (Gynerium argenteum Nees) in habit, leaf and inflorescence. The leaves are long and narrow, coriaceous, flat or involute and the nerves strongly developed. The rhizome is short but stout. The panicle, raised above the foliage on a tall, stout stem, consists of many yellowish drooping branches and renders the plant most conspicuous.