Unique plant coming to the valley
What plant has no leaves or stems? Pua o te Rēinga/Dactylanthus taylorii!
Pua o te Rēinga is New Zealand’s only endemic (unique to NZ) plant that is fully parasitic. Unlike most plants that use photosynthesis for energy, it gets its energy by attaching to the root of a host tree and taking nutrients from it. The host root then develops a flared surface that the pua o te Rēinga can grow around. The tree is not harmed in this process, and both species are able to coexist together.
This flared surface is popular with collectors, but the plant dies upon harvesting. This, along with predation or destruction by introduced mammals, are the reasons it is in serious decline. Thankfully, ZEALANDIA and Otari Wilton’s bush have partnered to translocate pua o te Rēinga from Pureora Forest Park into the sanctuary next month. This is part of a national recovery program to preserve the species from extinction. Pua o te Rēinga holds an important place in an ecosystem as it is a rich food source for nectar feeding animals. ZEALANDIA provides a natural environment that is free from introduced predators and contains regenerating forest well suited to the plant. Bringing pua o te Rēinga into ZEALANDIA also gives us the opportunity to explore relationships the plant has with different host plants and pollinating species. For example, little is currently known on the role of native birds such as hihi and tīeke in the reproduction cycle of pua o te Rēinga.
Some of the pua o te Rēinga seeds will be planted in areas for you to see in the future. It is likely to take over five years before we see results, but we will keep you informed and it is great to be able to put our conservation attentions towards threatened plant species.
Photo: Pua o te Rēinga by Ngā Manu