Friday, 16 August 2019

Tiny Plants with a Dark Secret - sundews

Sometimes I just have to stop and take a look around when I am out hiking or walking, there are so many things I know I'd miss seeing otherwise. It makes me wonder whether cyclists and runners know what they are missing out on. It's a fine balance of course, if you're always stopping you never get far, and sometimes far is the place you need to be to see even more amazing sights!

Walking with some botanically minded friends up Clay Ridge in Remutaka Forest Park, meant that there were three of us with sharp eyes. One of us spotted these sundew plants. So we stopped to take a closer look. It helped to have a magnifying glass and lens.
Sundew, photo Ian Goodwin

Monday, 12 August 2019

Create a Nest or Habitat Diorama - craft for kids

Create A Diorama
Your challenge is to create a diorama of a habitat which includes clues about the animal that lives there. Keep your animal secret and then get your family and friends or classmates to guess Whose Home is This?
Diorama of a kea habitat
First here are some ideas about using clues to guess an animal that lives in a particular habitat, from my book Whose Home is This?

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Native Trees and Plants of New Zealand Brought Vividly to Life

The act of identifying and naming plants changes the way we see the bush. No longer is it a tangle of different greens, a confusing mass of different shape leaves. Bark, flowers, berries, leaves, all provide clues about the trees in the canopy above or help us distinguish the different plants in the understorey.  Once we can tell them apart the bush, wetlands, coast all begin to look very different to our eyes.

But learning about native plants even for those regularly in the bush can be a slow process. Among my Forest and Bird tramping group, there are repeated discussions as we remind ourselves about the differences between mataī and miro; mānuka and kānuka; horopito and toropapa. (Perhaps we can be forgiven for struggling to tell the latter two apart, as page 30 of The Meaning of Trees tells me this is likely to be down to plant mimicry.) 

In the end, it is rich descriptions and stories that help us remember the differences and characteristics. Toetoe has drooping flowers, those of pampas are erect and spear-like. Rangiora is the bushman’s friend, its thick leaves were handy for toilet paper or writing notes on. The blood red colour below the flaking bark of mataī was seen in some traditions as representing the blood of Tunaroa, the eel god slain by Māui. 

The Meaning of Trees: the history and uses of New Zealand’s native plants by Robert Vennell is a treasure trove of such rich descriptions and stories of our native trees, shrubs and and other plants such as vines, flax, bracken and even bull kelp. The book rewards repeated reading, and dipping into, as each time something new stands out, a whakataukī, a legend, or maybe where it got its name.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Discovering Birds' Nests - blown down in the wind

Nests feature in my children's book 'Whose Home is This?' illustrated by Fraser Williamson, which I'm excited to say is a finalist in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2019.
Half of the homes in the book belong to birds
I'm fascinated by how animals make their homes. In the spring I quietly observe the birds in my garden to see where they might be building their nests. In autumn and winter after a stormy night, I look in the garden or when I'm out on a bush walk to see if a bird's nest has been blown down by the wind. Garden or bush birds need only make their nests strong enough to last a month or two, just long enough for their chicks to grow big enough. For each new brood of chicks, they'll build a new nest. So the old nests eventually fall apart or get blown out of the tree.