Monday, April 28, 2008

It’s not bonnie, bloomin' heather ....

.... it’s a unwelcome alien ... a noxious weed!

On our trip in and around the Tongariro National Park last weekend I noticed that the purple colour on the hills was heather. The Scottish blood in me was roused and I admit to humming a few bars of ..... I love a lassie, A bonnie, bonnie lassie, She's as sweet as the heather in the dell ….. etc., etc.

Later, as df and I were wandering through the Park’s visitors centre, I spotted a section on heather … that’s when I found out … heather isn’t loved here!

According to the exhibit:

Heather was planted here by one of the early park wardens around 1910. [Probably a homesick Scot!]

He introduced the heather to the area as a food source for pheasant and grouse which were to be introduced for shooting trips. Apparently, not everyone thought this was a good idea. The birds were never introduced in the park, although some were released in neighbouring areas. The birds did not survive, but the heather did! It has spread throughout the region, smothering and pushing out the native red tussock grass.

DOC (Department of Conservation) seems to have successfully developed a form of biological control ... the heather beetle. Another import from Scotland, this beetle feeds only on heather. Many tests and trials were conducted to ensure that the beetle will not feed on any of the native plants. In 1996, the heather beetle was released on two sites in the National Park. No one expects that the beetle will get rid of the heather all together. The expectation is that the spread of the heather will be slowed allowing the native species to regenerate with less competition.

Blooming heather indeed!


Blogger Pearl said...

Those beetles will get fat enough to break their exoskeleton, or more likely will develop an unforeseen love of red tussock grass.

Michele sent me.

2:19 AM  
Blogger megz_mum said...

Lets hope they do the job and stick to only loving heather - not like our canetoads :(

8:13 PM  
Blogger Omykiss said...

welcome pearl and megz_mum ... I understand what you're saying .... so many attempts at biocontrol have gone wrong .. I so hope that they have got this one right. I wouldn't be happy if the Scottish heather ran riot and destoyed the New Zealand flora and fauna ... what a shame that would be :(

9:56 PM  
Blogger Maggie May said...

That was mighty interesting. I didn't know about the heather being a problem. Hope the beetles do the job with out causing any other problem as a side line.
Lots of things have had a detrimental effect when introduced to another country. We have our red squirrels that are being beaten back by the American greys Wherever you go it seems that some one in the past has upset the apple cart!

1:24 AM  
Blogger Omykiss said...

hello again maggies may ... I KNOW .. I think people just had a different perception of how things should be ... conserving native environments probably wasn't on their horizon. I wonder what important concepts we're missing that future generations will try to change!

2:51 PM  
Blogger kenju said...

Isn't it amazing how a plant that is beloved in one area can get to be a bane in another place? We have been over run by kudzu, originally brought from Japan, and now considered a noxious weed.

Michele says hi!

3:52 PM  
Blogger Omykiss said...

hello kenju .... thanks .. I had to google kudzu .. it's a member of the pea family apparently. So I've learnt something new too ....

10:30 PM  
Blogger Ms Mac said...

But it's so pretty...

I hope the heather eating beetle doesn't go the same way as the good old Aussie cane toad, though!

8:32 PM  
Blogger Omykiss said...

Hello ms mac .... well we were warned ... by Darwin all these years ago ... don't mess with natural selection or there'll be BIG trouble ;)

1:07 PM  

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