Highway natives – II (grey shrubland)

Returning from a work trip in the Lindis on Saturday, one tiny corner below

20190227_15577 Lindis_post 1a (Large).jpeg
Chain Hills ~1300m from altitude of 400m – their colour changes constantly. Invasive willows in middle ground

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).

1 Coprosma.jpg
Coprosma – a divaricate form

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.

2 Corokia.jpg
Corokia – another divaricate form, there are many garden forms of this

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….

3 Olearia lineata.jpg
Olearia lineata – perfectly adapted to this dry region
4 Leptospermum scoparium.jpg
Leptospermum scoparium \ manuka – flowering image on right is in the Taieri

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.

Another roadside stop 20190427_171419rs.jpg


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



5 thoughts on “Highway natives – II (grey shrubland)

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  1. This looks like much of California, although most of ours is at lower elevations and not so gray. The gray is mostly in the high chaparral and high deserts where not many people go to see it.

    1. Yes I agree completely with that, it’s much of what I see in LA when I visit, and what I’ve saw in parts of Marin Cty in SF years ago. What marks out plants out is their divaricating branching – no one’s worked out fully why even yet.

      1. Divaricte branch structure is not visible from a distance though. On the coast, there are several native species that are the same dark shade of green. We all know that it is because they are at sea level, in a climate that is often foggy but it is still peculiar to see so much of the same color.

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