March 4 A Day Off (Day 159)

Another full day of rain today so I’ll give some info on some plants we’ve encountered. I mentioned the palm trees we’ve seen in this area, the Nikau palm, a NZ native palm tree and the southern most member of the palm family!

These trees we saw at the Punakaiki Cavern, the flowering palm we saw on the road toward the Pancake Rocks area.

The Maori made many uses of the palm, from eating flowers, berries and shoots to weaving the leaves for baskets, hats, mats and leggings. The tree is very slow growing,”taking 40-50 years to begin to form a trunk and about 200 years to reach 10 m tall. On average two fronds are shed per year leaving behind a leaf scar on the trunk which can be used to give a rough indication of age since the trunk began forming.” These trees are pretty old!

Another plant we saw on our hike along the Fox River on the Inland Pack Track is the Tutu (Coriaria arborea) “the classic poisonous plant of NZ. It is a widely distributed species found throughout New Zealand, particularly along stream banks and in regenerating bush…All parts of all Coriaria species are poisonous except the black, soft fleshy petals surrounding the seeds (the seeds themselves are also poisonous). Poisoning is usually through eating the seeds, berries or poisonous honey.” The Maori figured this out, but still made a tea of the ‘soft fleshy petals surrounding the seeds’. “A number of people have been killed, incapacitated and hospitalised over the years from eating toxic honey.”

This is a tutu bush along the Fox River.

Here’s a huge tutu bush with strands of berries. Something eats them because we saw lots of purple colored poop with seeds in it along the trail!

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