The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 6 (October 1, 1930)
Pictures of New Zealand Life
Our Native Plants.
There are refreshing signs of an increased popular interest in our beautiful indigenous trees and shrubs, and a desire to plant them in parks and gardens. There is also, happily, a growing dislike to the sombre and ground-encumbering pinus insignis and macrocarpa, as elements in a tree landscape scheme. Some of our older parks are dreadful examples of what not to plant, the Newtown Park, in Wellington, for example. Now, as the result of much writing and many public addresses by lovers of the native trees, many local bodies as well as private owners are busy repairing the mistakes of the past. The wise landscape gardener perceives the peculiar charm and grace of the smaller trees of the Maori bush, their unusual beauty in leaf, shape and colour, in flower and fruit, and their attraction for the birds. Unfortunately, our native birds are all too few near the haunts of man, yet it is delightful to observe how the planting of trees and shrubs beloved by the birds brings the tui, the bellbird, the little grey warbler, the bush robin, and sometimes even the shy pigeon about country homes. Even the planting of a few rows of flax bring the honey-sucking birds around. If there were fewer imported birds, we should be better pleased; yet even in towns like Rotorua and Akaroa, the Maori birds are heard, particularly Akaroa. Our parks could be made vastly more charming if the remaining ugly exotic pines were rooted out and replaced with the vegetation typical of the country.
Boy and Man.
When does a colonial boy become a man? was a debatable question raised by a Christchurch civic dignitary the other day. This speaker, Deputy-Mayor Thacker, thought it was ridiculous to apply the term “boy” to males of twenty-two or so, as was so often done. When he was young he believed he was a man when he was sixteen. As for girls, it was “a perfect humbug” to have young women called girls.
There is much sound sense in this view of a much-abused term. Perhaps the practice of calling men boys sprang up during the Great War; and the girls'—or young women's—way of describing their sweethearts as boys, irrespective of age, has perpetuated it. Also, some parents keep their male offspring at secondary page 26 schools long after the age at which they ought to be out in the world earning a living.
In this age of luxury perhaps lads develop into men at a later age than they did in our pioneering days. The selfreliant life of the country makes men early. It is said by historians of the American frontier that when a boy of the backwoods attained the age of twelve he was given a gun and was allotted a loophole to defend in the stockade of the settlement or of the home in those days of Indian raids. It was much the same among the Maoris. A well-grown lad of about twelve was regarded as able to march out on the war-path, and several old warriors have told me that they first accompanied their elders on fighting expeditions at that age. In my own country-bred experience the farm boy matured earlier than his town contemporary; he was doing a man's work at a year when town boys were at school or college. No doubt the country boy lost much by this lack of leisurely education on the other hand he learned while young to knockabout for himself, and his horizon was wider than that of the town boy.
Many a boy does not begin his real education until after he leaves school, and in many cases it does seem a fearful waste of valuable time and opportunity for self-development to continue at college imbibing an artificial kind of knowledge at an age when one should be doing a man's part in the world.
Lord Bledisloe, it is pleasant to observe, has already become a great admirer of our New Zealand flora. He has seen quite a lot of the country since his arrival, and he is likely to be more charmed still by what he is likely to see during the coming summer. For one thing he naturally has reserved his opinion of the colour scheme of the pohutukawa tree until he sees it in flower. His Excellency has a delight before him. if he chances to spend next Christmas in Auckland. One would like page 27 to suggest to him to spend Christmas out-of-doors, camping in one or other of the lovely bays around the Hauraki Gulf. There he will see the pohutukawa in all its glory of huge knotty trunk and twisted limb and gorgeous crimson blossom; the tree that loves the salt sea wind and the cliff-top, and that lines the coast with its glowing flower-showers for hundreds of miles.
One does not need to go far from Auckland City to see it at its best. Motutapu and Waiheke Islands have their splendid groves and single trees; and there are a hundred places of delight well beknown to the midsummer yachtsman and powerboat holiday cruiser. But one need not even cross the Gulf to see grand old clumps of the Christmas-tree. There is that famous grove on the beachside at Takapuna, trees centuries old. The old trees assume quite a different habit from that of the young specimens grown in our town parks. They become wild in their old age, grow just as they please, and sprawl about the cliffs and bays in all sorts of negligent easy postures. It is as if, grown wise with the centuries, they have decided that it is an artistic mistake to be prim and orderly, and so they crook their knotty old elbows and send down long straggly fingers for a drink, and expose their rugged roots quite shamelessly. And the older they are the more recklessly they beflower themselves with burning gold, at the season when the greatest number of mankind can get out-of-doors to admire them.
What is the largest and heaviest living creature? Those fearfully destructive Norwegian whalers supply the answer. The killers of a fleet last season in the southern seas got a whale a hundred and six feet in length; the average estimated weight of a whale is a ton to the foot length. And altogether that one Norse syndicate's haul for the season was 870 whales. Seems beyond all fair limits, doesn't it? And that a touch of a finger on a trigger should convert all that hundred tons of life and enormous energy into a mere mass of blubber seems a tragic thing. One would like to see the contest less one-sided. Now, if it were only possible to teach those big fish that union is strength and that if they would only make a concerted attack upon one whale-killer after another they would presently be left in peace! Any philo-whale New Zealander want to organise the tribe?