Hebe News – Article 2

A VISIT TO NEW ZEALAND

During the month of May I was lucky enough to visit my native New Zealand with my family. I also did a bit of hebe spotting and enjoyed New Zealand’s wonderful natural history.

My sister, Rachel Hurford, has a house in Cashmere, Christchurch, just below the marvellous Victoria Park in the Port Hills where the old oak recent interest in planting native trees over the last 20 years. Surprisingly I did not see many hebes up there, but I did find a wonderful specimen of a tree size Hebe speciosa.

I was very interested to see that the recent resurgence in planting native shrubbery in Victoria Park has bought back a lot of native birds that were recently uncommon. This is because New Zealand’s native birds need native trees which provide them with food. I saw the wonderful bell birds, fantails, grey warblers, native wood pigeons, waxeyes and even tui. It was so nice to see that bell birds have returned to Christchurch. Also it was interesting to see how Christchurch’s oak trees don’t have the ecological importance that they have in the UK. The acorns pile up under the trees because there is nothing to eat them in New Zealand, also leaf fall of non-native trees is much more significant in New Zealand where most native trees are evergreen.

Next we went down south to Dunedin where we visited the Dunedin Botanical Gardens. Where we saw the biggest pine tree I have ever seen. We then climbed up through exotic plantings to the hill top native plant collection and to my surprise I saw that the wonderful specimens of Hebe cupressoides and Hebe masoniae were labelled Veronica.

To investigate why the genus name was being used I phoned the Dunedin city council Botanist, Tom Myers who was very approachable. Tom even got off a bus to talk to me.

Tom knew well of the famous Hebe Society as did the Chief Gardener Barbara. Tom said that genetic analysis proved to a lot of scientists that Hebe was not distinct enough to be its own genus but still many people were in disagreement with this, including scientists from Kew. Tom said that the Dunedin City council had accepted this and was using Veronica even though he was not keen on this. Tom also said that Douglas Chalk’s Hebe and Parahebe was a very good book! Tom was a very nice chap and I let him know that Hebe is a very iconic name, cherished by thousands of Brits who love New Zealand flora.

Next we visited the Orokanui Ecosanctuary which is an hour north of Dunedin and is 300 hectares of land surrounded by a predator proof fence, teeming with native birds, regenerating native shrub land and some mighty big eels. A wonderful place with some amazing examples of old trees. My father and I stopped to admire an ancient Miro, Prumnopitys ferruginea, which was covered with epiphytes and must have been around when the extinct Moa roamed New Zealand. We also saw a wonderful example of Hebe salicifolia.

Next we drove up north to the Katiki Point Light house where we saw some fur seals and some yellow eyed penguin boxes with no one at home and I saw a large Hebe growing next to the light house (to be identified).

We then spent a night in Omaru and spent the evening eating fish and chips and watching little blue penguins swim ashore.

Charles Hurford


Registered Charity No 801398