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Forest Vines to Snow Tussocks: The Story of New Zealand Plants

Montane Zone

Montane Zone

The montane zone ranges from about 700 to 3200 m altitude. The lower montane forests reach up to an average altitude of 1700 m, are 20–25 m in height and are generally without emergents. Palms and tree ferns are uncommon.

Some of the tree genera shared with New Zealand are Elaeocarpus, Litsea, Weinmannia, Pittosporum and Schefflera. Shared vine genera are Parsonsia and Clematis.

In places dense stands of Araucaria cunninghamii and A. hunsteinii are emergent over lower montane forest species. The Araucarias establish in forest openings, but eventually give way to broadleaves in the course of forest succession.

'Oak forests', which are also found in the lower montane zone, generally on ridge crests, are dominated by relatively small-leaved, evergreen species of the oak-related genera Castanopsis and Lithocarpus. Oak forests are usually fairly open with few epiphytes and lianes. The rather sparse subcanopy includes tree ferns, Phyllocladus hypophyllus and species of Rhododendron and Vaccinium.

Mid montane forests, from about 1700 m to 2800 m, are moister than those at lower montane levels and have an abundance of terrestrial and epiphytic ferns, mosses and lichens. The commonest forest type at this level can be termed conifer broadleaf as conifers are frequent. They include species of Podocarpus, Dacrycarpus, Papuacedrus (related to Libocedrus) and Phyllocladus. Among broadleaf genera, species of Weinmannia are particularly frequent.

Species of Nothofagus of the 'N. brassii group' are an important component in these forests, particularly on ridge crests where pure or nearly pure stands of Nothofagus occur.

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We also recognise an upper montane conifer broadleaf forest in which liverworts and lichens are abundant on trunks and branches. Neither Weinmannia nor Nothojagus are present here.