In December 2019 we spent a few days based in Karamea doing some of the local walks. And there are some beauties including, of course, the Heaphy track.
We spent one day in the Oparara Basin which has some beautiful sights and lush forest.
We got quite few images of flora and fauna some of which will find their way here. To start, one shot from that trip – an unfurling Wheki-ponga frond on a young plant modelling the well-known Koru (Māori for ‘loop or coil’) motif.
How to Identify a Wheki-Ponga Fern
Whekī-ponga (Dicksonia fibrosa [family: Dicksoniaceae, order: Cyatheales]) is endemic and thought to be one of New Zealand’s slowest growing tree ferns. There are apparently numerous specimens that are several hundred years old. 1
The bulk of the trunk is made up of interwoven aerial roots. Māori split these durable fibrous trunks and used them in the construction of food stores as they tended to be rat proof.
Old fronds don’t drop off as typical with other tree ferns, rather, they hang down forming a dense skirt which affords some protection to the trunk from perching plants and drying out. This characteristic skirt one of the things to look for when trying to identify the Wheki-ponga.
The truck of Dicksonia fibrosa grows up to 10m tall and 60cm diameter. Mature fronds are typically between 1.5 and 3m long.
The brown hairy frond stalks are another characteristic of the Wheki-ponga, and no doubt behind one of this ferns common names, the Woolly tree fern. The Wheki tree fern fronds stalks are also hairy, but hairs are black rather than brown. 2
This fern is found throughout NZ (but ‘Uncommon north of the Waikato River and the Coromandel Peninsula.’) 3
Common names: Woolly Tree Fern, Woolen tree fern, Kuripaka, Wheki-ponga, Jade green tree fern, Golden tree fern.
- Brief intro to NZ ferns by DOC https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-plants/ferns/
- Landcare Research on Maori use of Wheki-ponga https://maoriplantuse.landcareresearch.co.nz/WebForms/PeoplePlantsDetails.aspx…
- Phil Bendle Collection https://www.citscihub.nz/Phil_Bendle_Collection:Wheki-ponga_(Dicksonia_fibrosa)
- Dicksonia genus https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dicksonia
- Dicksoniaceae family https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dicksoniaceae
- Auckland University (good shots of fern detail) https://www.nzplants.auckland.ac.nz/en/about/ferns/native-ferns/dicksoniaceae-rough-tree-ferns/dicksonia-fibrosa.html
- Doc on the Oparara Basin https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/nelson-tasman/places/kahurangi-national-park/oparara-basin/
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- Crowe, Andrew, Which Native Fern? Penguin Books (2009), p9.
- Crowe, Andrew, Which Native Fern? Penguin Books (2009), p41.
- cf. https://www.citscihub.nz/Phil_Bendle_Collection:Wheki-ponga_(Dicksonia_fibrosa) Retrieved December 15, 2019.