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New Zealand Plants and their Story

The Southern and the Northern Heaths

The Southern and the Northern Heaths.

In the South Island the manuka heath, so far as the shrubs go, frequently consists of pure Leptospermum scoparium. Sometimes other shrubs occur in varying quantities, of which Discaria toumatou (the wild-irishman, tumatakuru) and Cassinia fulvida are frequent, while C. Vauvilliersii is not uncommon. The ground-plants vary according to the altitude, soil, and climate. On the Bluff Hill the heath is much richer in species; and specially noteworthy are the large bushes of the mingimingi (Styphelia acerosa), some with abundance of white and others with pink drupes. The bracken fern (Pteridium eseulentum) is a common constituent of heaths, and is frequently the most important plant.

Where the ground is very wet, as on the pakihis of western Nekon, the heath approximates to bog, and would be so reckoned but for the small amount of peat on the surface. The plant-covering consists of various rush-like sedges (Cladium glomeratum, page 52C. teretifolium, C. capillaceum), the bog umbrella-fern, a creeping club-moss, a beautiful gentian (Gentiana Townsoni), Epacris pauciflora, the very rare eyebright (Anagosperma dispermum), some orchids and sundews, and, of course, abundance of manuka.

In the northern part of the North Island the heath is much richer. Amongst its members are the following: A fine daisy-tree (Olearia furfuracea), some plants of the heath family (e.g., Styphelia fasciculata, Dracophyllum Urvilleanum, Epacris pauciflora), a shrubby
Fig. 20.—Pomaderris Edgerleyi, a Heath-plant. North Cape.Lands Department.] [Photo, L. Cockayne.

Fig. 20.—Pomaderris Edgerleyi, a Heath-plant. North Cape.
Lands Department.] [Photo, L. Cockayne.

speedwell (Veronica diosmaefolia), the palm-lily (Cordyline australis), and Coprosma rhamnoides. Smaller shrubs are Pomaderris elliptica (kumarahou), P. phylicaefolia (tauhinu), P. Edgerleyi (fig. 20), and, smaller still, Styphelia Fraseri, a most common plant, with small pungent leaves and edible yellow "berries," which is found in various plant societies, from the sea-level to the alpine region in both Islands.

Beneath the shrubs, or in the open spaces, is a profusion of the graceful club-moss (Lycopodium densum).The climbing umbrella-page 53ferns (Gleichenia circinata and G. dicarpa) form considerable colonies. Everywhere are two rush-like plants (Schoenus brevifolius and S. Tendo) growing amongst the scrub or forming tussocks. The flat-leaved and-stemmed Lepidosperma laterale, another of the sedge family, is frequent in places. The dwarf cabbage-tree (ti-rauriki), (Cordyline pumilio), not looking a little bit like its tall relative, is abundant. Formerly its thick underground stem, incorrectly termed a root, was a favourite food of the Maoris. Careful search will reveal quite a wealth of ground-orchids, all of which are interesting, and some pretty. The climbing sundew (Drosera auriculata), which has pretty pink flowers, and whose tuber beneath the ground allows it to occupy a dry position, is a common plant. The iridaceous plant, turutu (Dianella intermedia), a plant with bright-blue berries, is very common. In the far north of the Auckland Provincial District is the curious, parasitic plant, Cassytha paniculata, which entwines tightly other plants, and stretches its cord-like pale-coloured stems just above the surface of the ground from plant to plant, forming veritable entanglements.

C. paniculata belongs to that remarkable class of plants known as parasites. These are plants which live at the expense of others, to which they are attached. They are provided with special organs for draining the "life-blood" of their unfortunate host. Many, such as the plant in question, have little if any leaf-green, and so are quite incapable of manufacturing their food; but a number, amongst which must be numbered the New Zealand mistletoes (Tupeia, Elytranthe, &c.), are quite able to manufacture the requisite sugars, but nevertheless maintain entirely the parasitic habit. Parasites must not be confused with perching-plants (epiphytes), as is so often done. The latter are lodgers, or guests, who live on the surface of other plants, but do not draw on them for supplies.