Returning from a work trip in the Lindis on Saturday, one tiny corner below
and much later trundling down Cromwell Gorge the winter forms of the so-called grey-shrubland brought me to a stop. It’s good to pause and realise that the grey blur at 100kmh is actually quite a variety, so here we have four (there are probably in excess of two-hundred species across ten genuses, and a lot of local forms – go here for episode one of this series).
Grey shrubland \ grey scrubland \ grey scrub is a semi-formal term for a wide range of plants that from a distance are mainly twiggy, often divaricate and at the greyer\darker end of the rainbow – due to the twiggy form reducing reflection; a lot of leaf hairs and blue and grey leaf pigments.
Names matter as ‘grey’ has few positives in our language and neither does ‘scrub’ (native forest fires here are always in the news as ‘scrub fires’), and yet these diverse grey shrub communities provide viable, long-term cover in many rain-shadow and dry areas plus valley floors. One of the biggest threats to grey shrubland is arguably wild thyme with proven alleopathic tendencies – the ability of a plant to poison off all but its own species – see ref below. Valley floor vegetation is increasingly dominated by several introduced willow species which tend to dry and choke rivers and cause flooding….
A little later I pulled over in Roxburgh for a meal at what is now Nic’s Kitchen, formerly Manhattan Cafe which had a nicely ironic sound for such a small place. There are many reasons to stop along this ever-changing route.
Neilsen et al 2014. Germination and growth responses of co-occurring grass species to soil from under invasive Thymus vulgaris. Allelopathy Journal 35 (1): 139-152 (2015).
Wardle, P. 2002. Vegetation of New Zealand. The Blackburn Press, Caldwell, New Jersey, http://www.blackburnpress.com/ – Still the most complete and thorough coverage of NZ ecology and botany