Monday, 3 December 2018

Nature's Symmetry - a flower hunt

Spring and early summer is a time for flowering. Many herbs, vines, trees and other plants in the wild have been putting on a colourful show.  I always enjoy seeing the great variety of colour, shape and size, but a recent discovery in the forest set me thinking about symmetry. 

Although kiekie vines are often in abundance in our temperate rainforest I've rarely seen a flower. A friend found this one when we were hiking in the Tararua Forest Park. The flower is striking in its '3 part' symmetry. 
kiekie flower (about 30cm wide)
Symmetry is pleasing to the eye. We often look with pleasure on patterns that repeat in some way. So for children (and adults) seeking out symmetry in nature can be a fun and engaging nature activity.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Meet the Author - Animals of Aotearoa

Animals of Aotearoa 
Out this month, is a 112 page hardback compendium of New Zealand wildlife. Including all the favourites from the 'explore and discover' series and over 100 more.

Animals of Aotearoa is available to pre-order now from publisher Potton & Burton, but will be out in bookshops soon.

Come along with your children, meet me and see the new book at these events:
  • 28 October Sunday, North City Paper Plus, Porirua. 1-2pm (along with other local authors celebrating bookshop day) I'll be helping children create a Kiwi book corner, signing books and answering questions.

  • 21 November Wednesday, Zealandia Ecosanctuary, Karori. 10-10.30 am. I'll be reading from Whose Beak is This? and Whose Home is This? during Storytime for pre-schoolers and signing books in the shop afterwards.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

On The Trail: hanging clubmoss, a curious epiphyte


Here's a beauty to look out for on the tramping trail. In the forest it grows as an epiphyte (it's a plant that grows on trees) and in our mixed podocarp/broadleaf forests can sometimes be seen at eye-level. That's perfect for spotting while walking along!

Hanging club moss in forest near Paraparaumu
It's common name is hanging clubmoss, although it isn't a moss but rather a plant with an ancient lineage that is more like a fern. According to iNaturalistNZ its Māori name is iwituna and the "Field Guide to New Zealand's Epiphytes, Vines & Mistletoes" gives another Māori name, Whiri o Raukatauri. Its current scientific name is Phlegmarius varius but that's already changed once since I learned about it a few years ago!

Look closely and you'll notice something quite amazing. They sprout out all straggly to start with ..

Friday, 3 August 2018

The Nature Bookshelf - what I'm reading

Location is a key element of most nature writing. Terrain and climate determine the plants and animals that live there. Place plays a role, too, in how people experience and interact with nature.

Some places are universal 'hot' topics - the polar regions, Galapagos Islands, Himalayan mountains. Others will only ever attract a smaller, domestic readership. Yet these works record a place, time, and depict nature in ways that other media cannot. These local books deserve a wide readership, but sadly I think in New Zealand this readership is diminishing. Fewer people seem to know what local books are available or where to buy them, turning to Amazon or Book Depository for their reading material, rather than local outlets such as publishers' websites or bookshops. Some books remain in print such a short time that I have to resort to borrowing from the library or haunting second-hand bookshops to search them out.

Here's a few local books I've been reading, both deserve to be better known.

Tales from Abel Tasman National Park
 The obscure title People Came Later doesn't do justice to this delightful book about the Abel Tasman National Park by Perrine Moncrieff. Years before the National Park was formed Perrine and her family built a bach in a bay across from Adele Island. The chapters range from amusing anecdotes about people and boats, through to more serious topics such as the arrival of stoats and the demise of the penguin population.

Perrine was a mover and shaker. She was instrumental in saving forest from being logged and birds from being indiscriminately shot. She campaigned for the formation of Abel Tasman National Park. Shortly after I'd finished reading it, I was lucky enough to be taken to Adele Island and could see for myself the places that she wrote about. It's very different now, the few seals on the island were far outnumbered by the kayakers and tour boats.

I had to source this book from the library as it is long out of