Mountain neinei

2016-12-28-11-03-04-smMountain neinei (Dracophyllum traversii) is a tree Dr. Seuss would have been proud to call his own. Sparsely branched, with the leaves concentrated in tufts on the ends of the branches and bright red flower spikes on top, it would look right at home in Yertle the Turtle or The Cat in the Hat.

Aside from its goofy look, mountain neinei is an interesting plant. It is endemic to New Zealand (found nowhere else in the world), and inhabits ridgelines from about Arthur’s Pass north. We saw this one (and many others) on the way up Avalanche Peak near Arthur’s Pass last week. Though it is small (no more than 10 metres tall), it can live for up to 600 years, making it New Zealand’s longest-lived small tree.

It’s a useful plant, too. The leaves are used in weaving, the stems have been used to make walking sticks, and there is even an example of a flute made from mountain neinei.

It’s such a neat plant, it makes you want to speak in rhyme.

The ridge was quite steep,
And the day was too hot,
But the neinei were flowering.
We saw quite a lot.

Up rocks we scrambled.
The forest got smaller,
It looked like the top,
But the mountain was taller.

2016-12-28-13-24-57-smHigher and higher
We climbed and we huffed.
Till we reached the peak,
We really were puffed.

Spectacular views
And black jagged rock
Were our reward
For this strenuous walk.

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