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

Subcanopy Trees

Subcanopy Trees

Two species of decidedly tropical aspect reach the northern South Island, although they are never far from the sea in the southern parts of their ranges. These are kohekohe (Dysoxylum spectabile) with its large, pinnately compound leaves and our sole native species of palm the nikau (Rhopalostylis sapida)61 (Fig. 60).

Other species which tend to be more wide ranging are mahoe (Melicytus ramiflorus), pigeonwood (Hedycarya arborea), toro (Myrsine salicina) and two common tree ferns: mamaku or black tree fern (Cyathea Med-
Figure 61 The mountain cabbage tree (Cordyline indivisa). Photo: J. W. Dawson.

Figure 61 The mountain cabbage tree (Cordyline indivisa).
Photo: J. W. Dawson.

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) and ponga or silver tree fern (Cyathea dealbata). Some of these species are most abundant in canopy gaps, while other small trees, are largely restricted to such sites within the forest; for example, wineberry (Aristotelia serrata), putaputaweta (Carpodetus serratus), kaikomako (Pennantia corymbosa), Fuchsia excorticata, lacebark (Hoheria populnea), several species of Pittosporum, lancewood (Pseudopanax crassifolius) and the cabbage tree (Cordyline australis).

A few other small trees prefer higher altitudes in northern New Zealand and they include broadleaf (Griselinia littoralis) and the mountain cabbage tree (Cordyline indirisa). The latter with its unbranched trunk and massive head of broad, silvery-green leaves is certainly the most handsome of our cordylines (Fig. 61). It looks as if it would be at home on a tropical strand, so it seems strange that it should favour moister, cooler, montane forests.