December 22, 2023 Otari-Wilton’s Bush (Day 86)

Overcast today, but warm and calm. We drove down towards Wellington and turned slightly north to the City Park called “Otari-Wilton’s Bush”, the only botanic garden in New Zealand dedicated solely to native plants! And like all other city parks, entrance is free! ‘Otari’ is a Maori word meaning ‘place of snares’. When Maori arrived in the area it was covered with dense podocarp broadleaf forest in which they hunted birds. I’ve heard the term ‘podocarp’ used a lot in describing forests here in NZ. HERE is the best description of the NZ podocarp trees, basically a southern hemisphere conifer that bears cones and fruit. Not to be confused with the introduced pines that are grown here for lumber or wind breaks. Needless to say, most of the NZ native forest was cut for lumber or burned to create pasture for the sheep and cattle that were introduced in the mid 1800’s. About 17 acres at this spot was protected by¬† Job Wilton, one of the early European landowners. It was eventually purchased by the city of Wellington and has been expanded to create this unique reserve in the city limits!

The carved gate at one entrance to the park.

A native tree supporting native vines.

A creek runs through the park, harboring eels. I learned some new things about eels. They live in fresh water, then at maturity (20-60 years!) they swim to tropical ocean waters to breed (no one knows where exactly!) The young ‘glass eels’ are carried by currents back to NZ where they swim upstream to live until maturity!

Crossing a tributary creek, the scale shows how big the tree ferns can get!

Moko, the 800 year old rimu tree (a podocarp) we hiked to.

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