The discovery of the rare yellow mistletoe, Alepis flavida, in the Ngahape Valley east of Masterton has given heart to the nation’s growing band of weedbusters, says national Weedbusters coordinator, Carolyn Lewis.
“This mistletoe was thought to be extinct locally, and its discovery encourages the thousands of people who volunteer their time to clear invasive weeds to encourage the growth of our own unique New Zealand native flora,” Ms Lewis said.
The profile of the endangered mistletoe had been raised over the last few years through the work of the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network’s Wellington members. The site was discovered by a Greater Wellington Regional Council staff member while inspecting the property for pest plants.
“Weeds threaten a number of New Zealand’s endangered native plant species,” Ms Lewis said. “All nine native species of mistletoe in New Zealand are threatened to varying degrees by weed infestations, possum browsing, loss of native bird dispersers, and habitat loss,”
In the Bay of Plenty weedbusting volunteers have already made a big difference for the survival of local mistletoe at Lake Okareka.
The area, plagued by weeds and possum activity, has seen a welcome recovery in threatened native mistletoe over the last several years, largely thanks to efforts by weedbusting volunteers led by the Rotorua Botanical Society, with support from the Department of Conservation and Environment Bay of Plenty’s Environmental Enhancement Fund.
“Weeds were preventing the growth of native trees which the mistletoe grows on. Once the weeds were removed the area was replanted with host trees for the mistletoe in the hope that the local mistletoe population will increase,” Ms Lewis said.
Department of Conservation spokeswoman Sarah Crump said the group at Okareka had been progressing well and was now expanding the area being worked on to further increase the chances of mistletoe survival in this area.
“The work of the group has also meant that the local residents have stopped dumping their garden waste in the reserve. This means that the deliberate dumping of garden escapes is no longer the major threat to mistletoe in this area that it once was,” Ms Crump said.
More information about Weedbusters, an interagency weeds awareness programme coordinating weedbusting efforts around New Zealand, can be found on www.weedbusters.org.nz. Details of the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network can be found at www.nzpcn.org.nz.