Monday, July 2, 2012

Borland Road Walk

 Coprosma foetidissima

A few weeks ago I walked down the last ten kilometres of the Borland Road. It was a good day with fog in the early morning giving way to a clear sky after the first hour’s walk. A light overcast developed later and there was a halo around the sun with a sun dog to the left of the sun. It is unusual to see that when the sun is high in the sky. The halo usually portends a change in the weather but the succeeding days were fine. The walk, at botanical pace, took about three hours by the time we had explored some of the tracks leading from the main road into the pylons.

 The botany is good along the roadside, more so at the higher altitude. The montane Hebes – Hebe subalpina and Hebe odora give way to the common koromiko Hebe salicifolia as you descend and the Celmisias – the mountain daisies – disappear once you drop to about 400m above sea level. We could clearly see where there had been a huge growth of lotus or Birdsfoot trefoil and the tussock hawkweed Hieracium lepidulum, now both knocked back by the advancing cold weather. The hawkweed has spread a good deal in the last few years and it lives throughout the forest as it is very shade tolerant. There was a bit of Mountain tutu, still in fruit, and we squeezed out a few drops of juice. It has a pleasant taste but you have to be careful not to eat the tiny seeds or you will die.

Clubmoss with its spore-producing bits.

 We noticed a lot of celery pine Phyllocladus alpinus along the roadsides and some of the splendid Mountain inanga Dracophyllum menziesii. There was a a variety of coprosmas. The three that didn’t get below the 400m altitude line were Coprosma cuneata, C. pseudocuneata and Coprosma serrulata. The latter has large, leathery leaves with fine serrations.

 All three species grow in my garden. The genus seems to be quite hardy and I have 18 species growing at present. The one I have had no luck with is taupata Coprosma repens which is not frost tolerant and prefers to be near the sea. It is south of its natural range in Southland but it grows well around Riverton and Bluff where it is naturalised. Two of the other large-leaved species, C. robusta and C. grandifolia are widely naturalised around Southland and on Stewart Island. C. robusta or karamu hybridises a bit with other local species.

Coprosma rhamnoides

 Returning to the Borland story… the variety of lichens diminishes with altitude as well, and the bright red algae that covers the rocks disappears as you get into the lower and more shaded stretches of road. There were a few fungi on the roadside too but the season had passed and it had been too dry for the fungi to show themselves at their best. We checked the lancewoods hoping to find some of the alpine lancewood Pseudopanax lineare which I have seen there before but no luck this time.

 Later in the year I plan to walk down all the way from the pass. Let’s hope it will be good flowering season. I’m guessing that around the beginning of December will be best.