Pohutukawa Phobia

Pohutukawa is now one of Wellington’s most invasive plant problems, colonising almost unstoppably, and compromising the integrity of the city’s own distinctive indigenous ecosystems. Barbara Mitcalfe, in a recent letter to the Dominion Post

An obsession with endemic plants

By Roger Childs

pohutukawa-1Kapiti readers will recall that a few years ago the Council ordered the removal of some plants along the Waikanae River.

Were they exotic weeds like broom, gorse and blackberry, or perhaps Australian or English shrubs?

No, they were New Zealand seedlings which were not endemic to the Waikanae watershed.

Now we have concerns expressed in Wellington (see the quote above), that the wonderful native pohutukawa has no place in the local environment.

Need for vegetation purity in the capital?

pohutukawa-2Fortunately, the Kapiti Council has no plans to rip out the pohutukawa which are in full bloom in Rimu Road, along Marine Parade and Kapiti Road, on State Highway One at the south end of Paekakariki, and elsewhere in the district.

So why are some people obsessed with vainly trying to maintain some historic ecological purity in particular areas?

Barbara Mitcalfe, quoted above, also noted in her DomPost letter that Like karaka, pohutukawa does not belong in Wellington, and is in fact often referred to as an environmental weed.


She is also shocked that many people see the pohutukawa as being New Zealand’s Christmas tree.

Putting the ecological record straight

Our ecology columnist Bill Benfield sent a follow-up letter to the DomPost, to explain to Barbara and her fellow pohutukawa-phobes, that ecology is an ever changing process and never frozen in time.

The editor once again decided not to publish a Benfield letter. Is this natural selection or just plain censorship?

KIN is very happy to provide our readers with the full text.

Pohutakawa a Christmas Tree?

pohutukawaBarbara Mitcalfe’s letter of 26/12/16, encapsulates all that is wrong with New Zealand’s conservation. That in trying to preserve the world of plants in a frozen moment of time and in a human prescribed space, as if under a bell jar, she denies evolution. The world has undergone massive naturally occurring changes where plants range varied with events such as ice ages and interglacial warmings, where the so-called natural range in both latitude and altitude moved hundreds of kilometres in latitude and hundreds of metres in altitude.

In this warming interglacial period of world climate that we are now in, it is quite possible that left to their own devices and without human intervention, the “natural” range of pohutakawa and karaka could already extend to the northern South Island. If they can grow here naturally, then they are not invasive species, but part of the ever changing fabric of nature.

Bill Benfield