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The Gully Project: We have science!

My botanic discovery on Day 4 of the Gully Project was this attractive little seedling, found growing through the leaf litter about a metre from the stream bank. I was completely stumped by this one at first (not unusual it itself - my botanical knowledge is so limited), but somehow worked out that it might be titoki (Alectryon excelsus). The tricky thing with titoki is that its leaf form varies from being toothed (as in this little fellow) to only having subtle 'toothing' around the leaf margins. I suspect too that the form may change in the same individual as it grows from a juvenile to mature tree. This tree, which grows up to 12 to 20 metres, is fairly common in coastal and lowland fores

The Gully Project Day 3 - Tree sculpture

This photo, taken on Day 3 of the Gully Project, is not really about plant identification, but more about sheer enjoyment of the aesthetic of the forest. The vines entwined around the base of a rewarewa tree, along with moss-covered stones, has a sculptural quality to it (at least in my eyes). This rewarewa is particularly special because it is one of a pair that stand about halfway down the spur, marking a sort of gateway into the gully. It is reminiscent of the red torii gates that mark the entrance to Japanese shrines, symbolising the transition from the mundane everyday world into the sacred (see also Discovering our own sacred groves). The rewarewa (Knightia excelsa), also known as New

The Gully Project: Day 2

Welcome to Day 2 of the Gully Project! Today, on this uncharacteristically warm (16 degrees as I write this) winter's day, the gully's coolness was in noticeable contrast to the warmth and brightness of the world above. The tree I chose to identify today is the pate (Schefflera digitata), otherwise known as "seven finger", even though its leaves can be made up of anything from 3 to 9 leaflets. This small tree, which grows up to 8 metres tall, is widespread throughout New Zealand's lowland and mountain forests. It grows in the understorey, in canopy gaps and other moist, sheltered places, such as along stream banks. It is certainly fairly prolific in our forest fragment, making the most of op

The gully project: Day 1

As some of you may have gathered, I am working on a book exploring the connection between nature and wellbeing - focusing on 'neighbourhood nature', the sort of nature we have in our local parks, reserves or even in our backyards. Ironically, this has meant that I have spent a lot of time at the laptop, and not much time in nature myself - despite my deepening understanding of the benefits of doing so. So as a means of coaxing myself out into our bit of 'neighbourhood nature' - our gully - on a more regular basis, I have set myself a task. That is, to identify all (ok, so let's say 'most') of the plants growing in the gully over the next weeks, months ... years(?) This way, I am getting all

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