While on my runs

By waipushrink

The swamp pine

Chose not to run this morning; instead I went out late this afternoon after finishing at work. I thought if I went to a number of parks, I might find a totara as a part of this week's challenge of trees. Although I did find one, it was at the time that the battery in my little camera died! So, totara was off the list for today.

Just before I had found the totara I went past this piece of relatively recent planting in a low lying area of Grey Lynn Park. After recent rain the ground here was very soft and puggy, nothing like a real swamp, but certainly wetter than elsewhere. The tall tree here is a young kahikatea, also known as the white pine, accompanied by some New Zealand Cabbage Trees and New Zealand flax.

Kahikatea was described as the most beautiful tree of lowland swampy forests, and was found throughout the country. The stopbanking of rivers and the draining and conversion of swamps to pastures caused the forests of kahikatea largely to disappear except on the West Coast of the South Island. It is also found in forests other than swamp forest, although not in the same density seen in swamp forests.

Kahikatea grows to heights of over 150 ft and is the tallest of New Zealand forest trees. In diameter it is seldom more than 3 to 4 ft and when mature, the trunks have a long slender appearance topped by a smallish ragged crown. It is a conifer and its botanical name is Podocarpus dacrydioides; it belongs to the same genus as totara, P. totara. Leaves are small and awl-shaped. Seeds are small and rounded, borne on a red receptacle, and are often produced in profusion. This particular tree had many seeds; my close up, while a little blurred, did allow identification.

The timber is non durable, but its value as timber lay in its absence of any smell, allowing it to be a preferred option for butter boxes.

I would still like a picture of a totara, as there were some grand specimens on my father's farm. However, the kahikatea is nearly as good, as there was a small stand of them in an area which had been recovered from swamp in the late 19th century when the land in the valley was converted to farming land as the gold had run out in the hills and rivers around.

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