A Kiwi Botanist in our Mist

October 31st, 2013 by Kathleen DeMaria, Arboretum Gardener

Bec shows Kathleen how the Maori harvest Muka, the inner fibers of Harakeke (Phormium tennax) to be used in the fabrication of  various fibers used as rope, roofs, shoes, etc.

Bec shows Kathleen how the Maori harvest Muka, the inner fibers of Harakeke (Phormium tennax) to be used in the fabrication of various fibers used as rope, roofs, shoes, etc.

The misty October revealed a great surprise to New Zealand horticulturist Kathleen DeMaria while she was installing signs for the new ‘Lookout Loop Trail’ near the recently restored Lookout Gazebo.  Kathleen and fellow horticulturists Rhett Ruecker and Roy Farrow peeked through the fog and barely saw a highly engaged woman taking notes on the new New Zealand Forest.  As it turns out, this woman was Rebecca Stanley,  Auckland Botanic Gardens Education Officer and former plant ecologist with the Auckland Regional Council. Bec, visiting the US west coast on holiday, graciously offered to spend some time with Kathleen in the garden on the following Saturday. The two plant-geeks spent 4 hours walking through the foggy New Zealand forest. Bec’s encyclopedic knowledge regarding the ethnobotanic uses of plants and the cultural requirements of plants was astonishing, and her willingness to share it all, as well as her educational delivery style were delightful. She offered sources for seed, suggestions for books, names, emails and information about who she knows throughout New Zealand that would be interested and willing to help UWBG grow our own New Zealand forest.  Personally, and as a representative of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, I would like to thank Rebecca for all of her time and information, it was a delightful walk in the garden topped off with a delicious lunch at Cactus Cafe and a visit to the downtown library. Thanks so much, Bec! All photos courtesy of Julie Postma.

Dew  on Phormium tennax in the New Zealand garden

Dew on Phormium tennax in the New Zealand garden

Bec helps Kathleen assess the health of Olearia nummulariifolia in the NZ forest

Bec helps Kathleen assess the health of Olearia nummulariifolia

Bec discussing perecipitation patterns in the Otago region of NZ

Bec discussing precipitation patterns in the Otago region of NZ

One theory for the 'New Zealand Dead Look' of so many plants: Moa, wingless birds now extinct, were thought to have poor eyesight, so plants would mimic dead plants to avoid predation by these voracious herbivores

One theory for the ‘New Zealand Dead Look’ of so many plants: Moa, wingless birds now extinct, were thought to have poor eyesight, so plants would mimic dead plants to avoid predation by these voracious herbivores

seed capsule of Leptospermum scoparium, or mānuka, the tea tree. This name arose because Captain Cook used the leaves to make a 'tea' drink when he and his scurvy sickened crew arrived in New Zealand

Seed capsule of Leptospermum scoparium, or mānuka, the tea tree. This name arose because Captain Cook used the leaves to make a ‘tea’ drink when he and his scurvy sickened crew arrived in New Zealand

Light breaks through the fog on our walk back to the Visitors Center

Light breaks through the fog on our walk back to the Visitors Center

View from the woodland garden...deciduous trees are rare in New Zealand so Bec was delighted by our spectacular fall color

View from the woodland garden…deciduous trees are rare in New Zealand so Bec was delighted by our spectacular fall color

 

 

 

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