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Chapter XXIV. — The Naturalised Alien Flora of Tutira

Chapter XXIV.
The Naturalised Alien Flora of Tutira.

page 242

We think of the colonisation by England of the temperate regions of the globe as for the benefit of her citizens alone, their domesticated animals, their domesticated plants. The scores of tribes of smaller living things are overlooked whose desire to multiply, whose lust for land, is quite as keen as that of man himself. It is of them that the following pages treat.

In the wake of our sailors, explorers, soldiers, and pioneers, they steal unnoticed, unobserved. The proverbial sun that never sets on the flag never sets on the chickweed, groundsel, dandelion, and veronicas that grow in every British garden and on every British garden-path.

Elsewhere the ancient vegetation of the run has been described. Following its destruction through man's agency by fire and stock a huge area of virgin soil was, to use a New Zealand political term, thrown open to selection. Upon the decline of the tyranny of omniscient fern, a host of ancient and eager rivals rushed upon the soil. With the assistance and assent of stock the ground was seized, not only by indigenous plants, whom we may imagine to have been for centuries eagerly waiting for expansion and jealous of their hungry foe, but by aliens brought from thousands of miles—from Europe, Asia, Australia, and America, from, in fact, the four quarters of the globe.

Each of these plants had in one way or another to reckon with the sheep, for Tutira, like other parts of pastoral New Zealand, lacks the shady lanes of the Old Country, its roadside banks and hedges, its strictly preserved game coverts into which no stock can stray.

Wanting these natural sanctuaries, perhaps not a few weeds that reach the colony may never manage to spread beyond the precincts of page 243 the sea-coast towns; on the arterial roads it is possible they may be each year eaten out by the great mobs of travelling stock that pass down country seawards, towards the freezing-works. Nevertheless, though a few may thus be exterminated, or at any rate retarded, in their up-country progress, the partiality of the sheep for others is an aid in the struggle of life. Each of them, at any rate, has to take him into account. The grasses and clovers, for instance, bargain with him for the right to live; whilst providing him with food and raiment, they utilise his body as a distributing agent. Others elude destruction by enormous seed production, or nauseate him by their taste, or escape him on cliffs and rocks, or quietly withstand him and endure his perpetual crop and nibble. One plant alone—the blackberry (Rubus fruticosus)—is his master, seducing him to destruction with the bait of its black fruit, openly trailing great runners for his entanglement, and finally feeding on his carcase.

Hooker's ‘Handbook of the New Zealand Flora,’ published in '67, gives a list of 130 foreign species then naturalised in the colony. Cheeseman's ‘Manual of the New Zealand Flora,’ printed some forty years later, enumerates over 500 plants thoroughly well established in the colony. Not far from half of that number are now acclimatised on Tutira alone.

Under the designation of naturalised aliens, plants have been included which, surviving the accidents incidental to germination and early growth, have reached the run “by themselves.” With the exception of fodder-plants brought up and scattered wholesale on the run, species have likewise been included which, although originally carried up by man purposely, have, after arrival, proved able to spread abroad and propagate themselves under the normal disabilities of variable seasons, trampling and grazing of stock, ravages of slug and snail, competition of other members of the vegetable kingdom, not infrequently also the active hostility of man.

Scientific procedure, according to order and species, would quite fail to show the true interest of this invasion. The plants have been segregated, therefore, into groups, according to date, method, and manner of arrival. The date of arrival is in many cases certain, in all approximately correct, but it may well happen that error has occurred in regard to method and manner of travel. Some species, for instance, which I have enumerated as having probably reached Tutira in one way, may also have reached it in another, possibly by two or more routes page 244 simultaneously. Only those who have spent a lifetime noting the establishment of an alien flora can fully appreciate the multitudinous channels by which seeds can be carried, the impossibility of precise verification of their journeyings. The writer does not dare to make positive pronouncements, he has watched too long and seen too much to dogmatise. A notice, therefore, more or less detailed, has been given of each plant named, and the reader allowed to draw his own conclusions. The appearance of new species from time to time has been carefully noted. Since the afternoon of the 4th September '82, when I spotted the blossoming dandelions, golden in the turf of the Twenty Acre paddock, the rise, decline, and, in almost every case, the fall of every weed has been watched. I may say, indeed, with a fair degree of confidence, that not one has been overlooked. To begin with, probably change of every sort has been more clearly watched on Tutira than on most sheep-stations. I myself, for thirty-six years, have been on the prowl, seeking, like St Paul's men of Athens, for something new. Harry Young has been an admirable second; the shepherds of the place, cognisant of my crotchets,—I hope no more sinister word has been applied,—have also been more or less on the qui vive. Twenty thousand acres, nevertheless, will sound at first hearing a big patch of ground about which to make so confident an assertion. Readers will, however, recollect that in early times four-fifths of the station still lay in deep fern, amongst which no other growths could live. They will, furthermore, have learnt from the chapter on fern-crushing that outlying corners and poorer portions of a paddock almost at once reverted to bracken. In practice a comparatively small portion of the station supplied the weeds enumerated. Then, again, in this residue of the run 90 per cent of aliens have appeared about the homestead, the gardens, orchards, garden-paths, and roads. Lastly, as nearly all aliens watched on Tutira have increased in the ratio of unit, hundred, and hundred thousand, many species have been impossible to miss. It may have been easy to pass by the unit, the second year's spread could hardly have been so overlooked. The attention of the most unobservant could not but have been drawn to the hundred thousand stage.

Guns who have shot rabbits in cover not yet withered by frost and rain, know the gain of a cubit or so added to a man's stature; that advantage, too, has been mine—the advantage of height. An immense proportion of my life has been spent on horseback; from the saddle it page 245 has been possible to spy out the land from an elevation, not of six feet, but of eight or nine. Again, a great proportion of shepherd's work is work done in the early hours of the morning. Plants, grasses perhaps especially, then stand forth from one another with extraordinary clearness; discrimination, difficult at noon, is simple at dawn, when dew emphasises the most minute dissimilarities.

Tutira plants have been marked not for a day and never again, but year after year, each in its own self-selected spot. There has occurred the rarely vouchsafed opportunity of watching aliens on one particular bit of land, not as a stranger passing by, who views a particular species temporarily rampant, and who continues on his way with that most misleading fact stamped on his mind, but season after season.1 Thus have been watched the appearance of the pioneer plant, its rapid increase, its vast multiplication as if about to overspread the whole district, the check in its numbers, its slow diminution till perhaps a weed viewed in turn as a nuisance, menace, and actual peril, dies back to the normal, specimens appearing so rarely that instead of being cursed as a foe it is welcomed as an old friend reviving an old interest.

The annals of Tutira can be read in its weeds. Each phase in the improvement, each stage in the development of the run, has been marked by the arrival and establishment of aliens particularly fitted for the particular condition. Each of the main periods in the history of the station has produced an especial flora.

In the 'sixties, when Maoris were still in occupation of the run, its acclimatised species consisted of a grass or two, such as rye (Lolium perenne), a few purposely planted edible fruits—Cape-gooseberry (Physalis peruviana), peach and potato,—a few pot-herbs, such as mint (Nepeta cataria) and thyme ((Thymus vulgaris).

In the 'seventies stocking was attempted. That period was marked by the establishment of plants carried up in the body of man, as black-berry; in the stomachs of stock, as members of the clover family; in the wool of sheep, as Australian burr (Acœna ovina).

During the 'eighties the house and wool-shed were built and a permanent homestead established. As if by magic, there appeared those plants which seem to be almost parasites to mankind—plantain

1 I cannot but think that the great botanist Hooker may have been misled by reports of some such temporary multiplications of aliens into the fear expressed by him as to the “actual displacement and possible extinction of a portion of the native flora by the introduced.”

page 246 (Plantago major), shepherd's purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris), annual poa grass (Poa annua), chickweed (Stellaria media), groundsel (Senecio vulgaris), and others.

Later again, when surface-sowing commenced on a great scale, in the train of valuable fodder-plants purposely scattered abroad, numbers of weeds and inferior grasses, stowaways such as foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), vetch (Vicia sativa), hop-trefoil (Trifolium procumbens), hair-grass (Aira caryophyllea), and many more made their appearance.

When a greater degree of leisure had made possible the care of a flower-garden, there reached Tutira one by one a multitude of those plants that seem habitually to consort with their more lovely relatives—white dead-nettle (Lamium album), common fumitory (Fumaria officinalis), couch-grass (Agropyrum repens), pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), and a host of others.

With tillage of the rich swamps round the edge of the lake appeared species that follow the plough—charlock (Brassica sinapistrum), common erodium (Erodium cicutarium), and others.



With the obtainment in 1908 of a satisfactory lease,—an event yet to be chronicled,—agricultural operations began in the long-neglected trough of the run. In order to discover what plants were likely to thrive on its dry soils, experimental plots were sown with grasses and fodder-plants of sorts other than those hitherto purchased. Themselves hailing from dry downs, deserts, and highland pastures, they too brought in their company weeds to correspond, weeds of a type quite new to Tutira. Thus with burnet, milfoil, crested dog's-tail, fescues of sorts, species of lotus, all purposely sown, arrived stow-aways such as sheep's-bit (Jasione montana), bladder campion (Silene inflata), and other upland weeds.

Nay, even such a trivial factor as the private taste of a maid for caged canaries has enriched the station by three aliens.

In 1901 the first sods of the Napier-Wairoa road were cut. As in other cases cited, the labour of man was the opportunity of plants. In large numbers aliens such as vervain (Verbena officinalis), Mayweed (Anthemis cotula), strawberry-clover (Trifolium fragiferum) and many others, reached the station by pedestrianism—on their own legs, so to speak.

page 247

I verily believe were a menagerie to be established or a musical festival ordained on Tutira, plants corresponding to these forms of human activity and ingenuity would be forthcoming. Species possessing tastes in accord with the dust of cages, heaps of mixed dung, horse-flesh, and monkey-nuts would follow the menagerie. Top-hats, violins, ground resin, old catgut, long hair, and broken piano-wire would doubtless like-wise produce its specialised flora.

Nor is this correspondence between certain lines of human enterprise and a certain type of plant altogether local. Not only does an alien vegetation spread in the wake of man; still more curiously it responds to the pace set by him. Since motor traffic has been possible on the Tutira road, weeds are reaching the station more rapidly from greater distances; seed that used to travel per diem twenty or thirty miles in mud adhering to a buggy, now clings to a motor-car for twice or thrice that distance. In the 'eighties and 'nineties I was well acquainted with almost every single travelling weed, long before it actually reached the station; it was a perennial interest to mark its modest movements run-wards; I knew of these strangers miles north and miles south of Tutira long before they actually attained their goal. Nowadays they come from beyond my ken, though that—for I, too, move with the times—has also been extended three or four-fold. Plants indeed have sometimes appeared as though attracted to the run merely by thought, a magic procedure which can, however, to serious readers be prosaically explained. It is resolved, say, that yarrow (Achillœa millifolia), of which several million seeds are required to weigh a pound, is to be largely sown in certain blocks; a second step in our chain of cause and effect is inspection of samples in the Napier stores. In one of them, the seedsman inadvertently brushes against the purchaser's coat; in another, a draught from the dusty floor overhead is blown down the ladder by which he mounts; his hand touches the tiny seeds, or his sleeves; dusting himself with his handkerchief, they are transferred from pocket to pocket; they hide themselves beneath his finger-nails, they fall into his shoes; departing, he carries away seed lifted unbeknown in a dozen ways. Reaching the station, they are shed on floors and carpets, they are swept out dry in dust; they are carried abroad glued to wet boots; they adhere to gaiters and saddle-gear. What, in fact, had been visualised but a short time ago as silvery seed, appears as if by miracle growing and green. Had Romeo to such matters seriously page 248 inclined—and there is not a word in Shakespeare to suggest that this was not the case—I am confident that, after his interview with Juliet, her nightie and hair must have been plastered with seeds.1

Lastly, I would fain forestall criticism as to the groupings of Tutira aliens in chapters to come; I have, at any rate, found it impossible quite to satisfy myself. The claims and qualifications of a species are not infrequently so evenly balanced that it may with nearly equal propriety be classed in several categories. To give but a single instance: I have transplanted the weeping-willow (Salix babylonica) from group to group till the unfortunate plant must be dazed. It has figured at one time as a garden escape, at another as a pedestrian, before becoming firmly rooted and grounded amongst the missioners. Before segregating my aliens into groups according to their manner of arrival, I propose enumerating:—
  • A. Species in possession of the run prior to 1882.
  • B. Plants reaching Tutira between 1882 and 1892.
  • C. Plants reaching Tutira between 1892 and 1902.
  • D. Plants that have appeared between 1902 and 1920.

1 Seeds in their life-history strangely resemble jests—both are distributed every day in millions over the surface of the globe, both depend on a sympathetic soil for their germination, perpetuation, and increase. Such “faceetiousness,” for instance, as the pronouncement that it is “easier for a coo to climb a larrik tree tail foremost to harry a craw's nest, than for a mooderate to enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” could strike root only in minds humorously cognisant of the bitterness of religious sects during a particular period in a particular country. Transported to Polynesia, such a jest would lie as dead as a cocoanut planted in a Stirlingshire garden. Punch's delightful bit of humour—Tyro at shooting party to keeper at termination of drive: “Are all the beaters out?” “Yes, sir.” “Are you sure?” “Yes, sir.” “Have you counted them?” “Yes, sir.” “Then I've shot a roedeer”—spread in Scotland after its perpetration over forest, moor, and covert as I have noticed in Tutira the spread of a new plant perfectly suited to its environment. In the minds of guns, keepers, and beaters it had found a congenial nidus, yet such a jest broached, say, at a conference of Seventh-day Adventists could never have reproduced itself; it would have perished in an unresponsive soil.


List of Plants Naturalised on Tutira prior to 1882.

  • Peach (Prunus persica).
  • Dwarf Cherry (Prunus Cerasus).
  • Apple (Pyrus malus) (var.).
  • Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus).
  • Strawberry (Fragaria elatior).
  • Vine (Vitex vinifera).
  • Cape Gooseberry (Physalis peruviana).
  • Watercress (Nasturtium officinale).page 249
  • Gorse (Ulex europeus).
  • Broom (Cytisus scoparius).
  • Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica).
  • Nonsuch (Medicago lupulina).
  • Toothed Medick (Medicago denticulata).
  • Spotted Medick (Medicago maculata).
  • Field Melilot (Melilotus arvensis).
  • White Clover (Trifolium repens).
  • Suckling (Trifolium dubium).
  • Red Clover (Trifolium pratense).
  • Yorkshire Fog (Holcus lanatus).
  • Lesser Quake-grass (Briza minor).
  • Ratstail Fescu (Festuca myuros).
  • Fescue (Festuca bromoides).
  • Sheep's Fescue (Festuca ovina).
  • Red Fescue (Festuca rubra).
  • Field Brome (Bromus mollis).
  • Brome (Bromus racemosus).
  • Meadow Poa (Poa pratensis).
  • Cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata).
  • Rye (Lolium perenne).
  • Mint (Mentha viridis).
  • Cat's Mint (Nepeta cataria).
  • Garden Thyme (Thymus vulgaris).
  • Horehound (Marrubium vulgare).
  • Potato (Solanum tuberosum).
  • Tobacco (Nicotania tabaccum).
  • Small-flowered Silene (Silene gallica).
  • Yarrow (Achillæa millifolia).
  • Great Mullein (Verbascum thapsus).
  • Australian Burr (Acæna ovina).
  • Prickly Thistle (Cnicus lanciolatus).
  • Cape-weed (Hypochæris radicata).
  • Dock (Rumex obtusifolia).
  • Sorrel (Rumex acetosella).
  • Dandelion (Taraxicum officinale).
  • Sweet Vernal Grass (Anthroxanthum odoratum).


List of Plants Naturalised on Tutira between 1882–1892, given in Approximate Order of Arrival.

  • Raspberry (Rubus idœus).
  • Horse Radish (Cochlearia armoracia).
  • Parsnip (Peucedanum sativum).
  • Oats (Avena sativa).
  • Wild Oats (Avena fatua).
  • Rape (Brassica rapa).
  • Mouse-ear Chickweed (Cerastium glomeratum).
  • Vetch (Vicia sativa).
  • Crested Dogstail (Cynosurus cristatus).
  • Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea).
  • Austrian Pine (Pinus austriaca).
  • Insignis (Pinus insignis).
  • Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus).
  • Bermuda Grass (Cynodon dactylon).
  • Sweet Briar (Rosa rubiginosa).
  • Daisy (Bellis perennis).
  • Shepherd's Purse (Capsella Bursa-pastoris).
  • Narrow-leaved Cress (Lepidium ruderale).
  • Chickweed (Stellaria media).
  • Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris).
  • Procumbent Speedwell (Veronica agrestis).
  • Thyme-leaved Speedwell (Veronica serpyllifolia).
  • Wall Speedwell (Veronica arvensis).
  • Annal Poa (Poa annua).
  • Centaury (Erythræa centaurium).
  • Greater Plaintain (Plantago major).
  • Buckshorn Plaintain (Plantago coronopus).
  • Ribwort (Plantago lanciolata).
  • Flax (Linum marginale).
  • Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum).
  • Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris).
  • Boxthorn (Lycium horridum).
  • Canadian Groundsel (Erigeron canadensis).
  • Hair Grass (Aira caryophyllea).
  • Persicaria (Polygonum Persicaria).
page 250


List of Aliens Naturalised between 1892–1902, in Approximate Order of Arrival.

  • White Goosefoot (Chenopodium album).
  • Small-flowered Buttercup (Ranunculus parviflorus).
  • Wheat (Triticum sativum).
  • Ox-tongue (Picris echioides).
  • Vervein (Verbena officinalis).
  • Mallow (Malva verticillata).
  • Small-flowered Mallow (Malva parviflora).
  • Haresfoot Clover (Trifolium arvense).
  • Alsike (Trifolium hybridum).
  • Spurry (Spergula arvensis).
  • Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare).
  • Borage (Borago officinalis).
  • Periwinkle (Vinca major).
  • Elder (Sambucus nigra).
  • Californian Thistle (Cnicus arvensis).
  • Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis).
  • Giant Fescue (Festuca elatior).
  • Hedge Mustard (Sisymbrium officinale).
  • Hop Clover (Trifolium procumbens).
  • Ox-eye Daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum).
  • Italian Rye (Lolium italicum).
  • Brome (Bromus unioloides).
  • Timothy (Phleum pratense).
  • White Lychnis (Lychnis vespertina).
  • Californian Stinkweed (Gillia squarrosa).
  • Field Madder (Sherardia arvensis).
  • Erodium (Erodium cicutarium).
  • Linseed (Linum usitatissimum).
  • Trailing Hypericum (Hypericum humifusum).
  • Four-leafed Polycarp (Polycarpon tetraphyllum).
  • Thyme-leafed Sandwort (Arenaria serpyllifolia).
  • Lesser Stitchwort (Stellaria graminea).
  • Petty Spurge (Euphorbia peplus).
  • Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis).
  • Hawkweed Picris (Picris hieracioides).
  • Water Forget - me - not (Myosotis palustris).
  • Evening Primrose (Œnothera oderata).


List of Species reaching Tutira between 1902–1920, in Approximate Order of Arrival.

  • Knotweed (Polygonum aviculare).
  • Lesser Swine-cress (Senebiera didyma).
  • Pearl-wort (Sagina apetala).
  • Amaranth (Amaranthus (sp.)).
  • Nettle-leaved Goosefoot (Chenopodium murale).
  • Thorn-apple (Datura stramonium).
  • Modiola (Modiola multifida).
  • Couch-grass (Agropyrum repens).
  • Black Bindweed (Polygonum convolvulus).
  • White Dead-nettle (Lamium album).
  • Field Stachys (Stachys arvensis).
  • Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis).
  • Cockspur Panicum (Panicum Crus-galli).
  • Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium).
  • Ragwort (Senecio Jacobæa).
  • Green Panicum (Setaria viridis).
  • Canary Grass (Phalaris canariensis).
  • Annual Beardgrass (Polypogon monspeliensis).
  • Mayweed (Anthemis cotula).
  • Hyssop Lythrum (Lythrum hyssopifolium).
  • Reversed Clover (Trifolium resupinatum).
  • Strawberry Clover (Trifolium fragiferum).page 251
  • Clustered Clover (Trifolium glomeratum).
  • Suffocated Clover (Trifolium suffocatum).
  • Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris).
  • Pearlwort (Sagina procumbens).
  • Wall Barley (Hordeum murinum).
  • Fennel (Fœniculum vulgare).
  • Viscid Bartsia (Bartsia viscosa).
  • Basil-Thyme (Calamintha acinos).
  • Fiorin (Agrostis alba).
  • Paspalum (Paspalum dilatatum).
  • Lesser Dodder (Cuscuta epithymum).
  • Selaginella (Selaginella kraussiana).
  • Celery-leaved Buttercup (Ranunculus sceleratus).
  • Fiddle Dock (Rumex pulchra).
  • Bedstraw (Gallium parisiense).
  • Lesser Broomrape (Orobanche minor).
  • Beardgrass (Polypogon fugax).
  • Bladder Campion (Silene inflata).
  • Corn Cockle (Lychnis githago).
  • Dwarf Mallow (Malva rotundifolia).
  • Sheep's-bit (Jasione montana).
  • Wood Poa (Poa nemoralis).
  • Burdock (Arctium lappa).
  • Melancholy Thistle (Carduus heterophyllus).
  • Musk Thistle (Carduus nutans).
  • White-leaved Senecio (Senecio cineraria).
  • Barberry (Berberis vulgaris).
  • Sunflower (Helianthus (var.)).
  • Chicory (Chichorium intybus).
  • Sand Brassica (Diplotaxis muralis).
  • Cleavers (Gallium aparine).
  • St John's-wort (Hypericum perforatum).
  • Flax-leafed Hypericum (Hypericum linarifolium).
  • Reflexed Poa (Poa distans).
  • Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris).
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica).