Forest Vines to Snow Tussocks: The Story of New Zealand Plants
Figure 102 (right) A group of celmisias in flower —
C. semicordata. There are a few non-flowering rosettes of C. traversii also. Mt. Arthur, N. W. Nelson.
Photo: J. W. Dawson.
Some celmisias of tussock herbfield have their leaves in one or more rosettes close to the ground. Others, which form in patches, have closely branched, spreading stems with more dispersed leaves. The stems of some of the latter can be fairly woody, and when they are semi-erect, the plants could be described as dwarf shrubs.
Celmisia semicordata (Fig. 102) has the largest leaves and flowers of the genus. The leaves are in large rosettes and are silvery green with white undersides. The species is common in both open shrubland and tussock herbfield on wetter mountains throughout the South Island except the far north. Celmisia verbascifolia, with a similar range to C. semicordata, and C. traversii in the north-west and south-west of the South Island are similar in habit, but somewhat smaller than C. semicordata. Celmisia verbascifolia is notable for the bright purple petioles and midribs of its leaves and C. traversii for the deep, velvety rusty red tomentum on the leaf undersides. The commonest Celmisia in New Zealand is C. spectabilis, which in some of its forms is like a small C. semicordata. It occurs throughout the mountains of the North and the northern half of the South Island in both wet and dry tussock grassland. It becomes particularly abundant following fires.
Three species are similar in having tufts of long, narrow, pointed sword-like leaves, which leads to them sometimes being mistaken for spaniards (Aciphylla). Celmisia lyallii ranges along the eastern sides of the South Island mountains in Chionochloa macra grassland, and C. petriei and C. armstrongii together span the wetter western mountains of the South Island, C. petriei in the north-west and south-west and C. armstrongii in between.
Of the many smaller leaved species which form spreading mats a metre or more in diameter, Celmisia incana is probably the most striking as it often has a completely white tomentum of hairs on both sides of the leaves as well as the flower stems. It ranges throughout the North Island mountains and continues to the middle of the South Island.page 181
Three genera of monocotyledons other than grasses may also be prominent in tussock herbfield and shrubland.