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



To those familiar with the brilliantly blue, deeply bell-shaped gentians of the northern hemisphere, the New Zealand versions must come as a surprise. Their flowers are like sprinklings of snow among the tussocks and in each flower the petals are much more deeply divided than those of northern species although still fused near the base (Fig. 101). The leaves are generally somewhat fleshy and sometimes both leaves and stems have a strong red or purple colouration masking the green. The flowers are usually pure white, but sometimes have purple veins. The distinctions between many of the New Zealand species are still not clear, but several are prominent in tussock herbfield and shrubland. Gentiana corymbifera can be up to half a metre tall and is mostly found in drier eastern tussock grassland throughout the South Island mountains. The similar G. montana is widespread in the wetter, mostly western mountains of the South Island and in Stewart Island. G. bellidifolia, a page 179somewhat smaller species, ranges throughout the mountains of both North and South Islands.