Rata Clearing - Micro-site

Recovering Tawa Tree

The Rata Clearing was the first micro-site created by Friends of Maara Roa.

It is a sizeable grassy clearing in the Cannons Creek Conservation Covenant, surrounded by bush.  There's a seat there, too (installed by Greater Wellington Regional Council), making it a pleasant spot for a rest and snack.

Wider at the lower end, the upper end of the clearing narrows and is towered over by the prominent, damaged, but now regenerating, Tawa tree, which is the inspiration for the Maara Roa logo (see the top left corner of this page).

Sheltered yet sunny, it is ideal for northern rata.

Approximately 300 northern rata seedlings (Metrosideros robusta) were planted here in 2003, having been grown by Friends of Maara Roa in the "Trees for Survival" Nursery at Porirua College.

No northern rata trees had been located in the Cannons Creek Valley during the Species Survey carried out in 2000 by Neil and Juliet Bellingham, Chris Horne and Barbara Mitcalfe of the Wellington Botanical Society.

So we successfully applied for a grant from "Project Crimson" in 2002 and envisaged creating (eventually) a splash of summer colour in the best of the remnant bush.

What's happened since then?

For 10 years the Friends kept an eye on them and removed weeds where they could.

Some did not survive, all were slow-growing, as northern rata always is; others were outgrown by other native trees and were lost from sight.

In August 2013, a photographic survey was carried out – by Rae, from the Nursery team, and Lisa, as photographer - to show the status of those rata trees.

Many young saplings were found - many over a metre tall and growing very well.  Some are in the shade, some are just rising above the long grass, and a few are almost smothered by weeds and just surviving.

All are too young yet to bloom or seed.

These precious young forest trees will continue to need to be looked after for a few more years yet, so they can become sturdy rata trees, just like the one Rae has been photographed next to - it is as tall as she is.

We are rightly proud to see such results in only 10 years of restoration.

Rata Clearing - This was the first micro-site created by Friends of Maara Roa. It is a sizeable grassy clearing in the Cannons Creek Conservation Covenant, surrounded by bush - August 2013.

Clearing

Rata Clearing - There's a seat there, too (installed by Greater Wellington Regional Council), making it a pleasant spot for a rest and snack - August 2013.

Seat

Rata Clearing - The photographic survey found many young northern rata saplings - many over a metre tall, and growing very well - August 2013.

Rata sapling

Rata Clearing - Some saplings are in the shade - August 2013.

In the shade

Rata Clearing - Some saplings are just rising above the long grass - August 2013.

In long grass

Rata Clearing - Some saplings are almost smothered by weeds and just surviving - August 2013.

Smothered

Rata Clearing - A close-up of a healthy young planted northern rata - August 2013.

Close-up

Rata Clearing - These precious young forest trees need to be looked after for a few more years yet, so they can become sturdy rata trees, just like the one Rae has been photographed next to - it is as tall as she is - August 2013.

Sturdy tree


The one who came before - who planted these rata?

Dominion Post, 13 August 2003: Tree planting effort rewarded

Photo: Job well done: John Hodges, recipient of a conservation award, says he has planted tens of thousands of trees to keep gorse at bay.
Picture: KENT BLECHYNDE

[Larger image]

Northern rata in bloom, December 2012.

In bloom

Northern rata in bloom, December 2012.

Large tree

In December 2012, Andrew noticed and photographed a northern rata in flower. 

But it was a large tree (2m), far larger than it was expected, and definitely not part of the Rata Clearing micro-site.

It was near the south-west edge of the Cannons Creek Conservation Covenant, near Richard's Seat, and about 200 metres from the Rata Clearing.  Others were found nearby, too.

Enquiries found that the planter was John Hodges, who brought Brandon Intermediate schoolchildren to this bush frequently and planted rata and other forest favourites in the 1970's and 1980's.

A teacher then, he took every class out each year and with them planted thousands of natives trees in the Cannons Creek Lakes Reserve.  In recognition of this work, he received a DOC Conservation Award in 2003.

He has continued on from those 25 years of planting in the Cannons Creek Valley, by co-founding the Friends of Maara Roa, creating the Green Firebreaks Plan, and carrying out hectares of spraying and clearing every year for the project.