Flora of Te Mata Park

Many significant native plants, some of them threatened species, can be found in Te Mata Park.

One such plant is the native daphne (Pimelea mimosa), a unique flowering ground cover that is only found in Te Mata Park and can be found planted around the Main Gates Car Park. This is the only place in New Zealand where it grows in the wild with a total population of less than 100 plants.

There are four main mature bush areas in Te Mata Park, with new native forests recently planted from 2020-2022 to add to these areas over time. 

Webb’s Bush is the largest native forest in Te Mata Park, containing karaka trees which are over 100 years old, as well as ngaio and māhoe that are many decades old. The name Webb’s is derived from Webb’s Nursery. The Webb family nursery donated  native trees for planting in 1945 to begin to restore this bush remnant, and plantings have continued up to the present.

Webb’s Bush is located in the valley of Te Heu, which is in the heart of the Park on the yellow track. It is of considerable ecological importance, with extensive plantings of karaka, māhoe, puriri, houhere, and other native plants that make up this forest ecosystem.

Learn more about Webb’s Bush 

The Karaka Grove in Te Hau Valley is believed to be more than 200 years old and the circular arrangement of the trees suggests it was a Maori ‘orchard’.

Identified as a Māori Heritage Place, this grove was cultivated by the land’s Māori settlers, possibly as a food source or a sacred place for the tohunga (spiritual leader) to consult his atua (gods). It is intended that this historically and culturally significant plantation is retained in its current state.

Karaka were introduced by the Maori and grown for their large fruit which, when cooked, become edible. The outer part is safe to eat but the inner is poisonous unless treated. Kererū, the large native pigeon were attracted to the fruit and were themselves eaten. Ngā uru karaka (karaka groves) were highly prized as an important source of kai (food) for Māori and were often planted around settlements. 

Karaka kernels or seeds contain a powerful poison called karakin and are extremely toxic if eaten raw. Before eating, the kernels were treated through a long process of roasting, soaking and steaming in a hangi to remove all traces of the deadly poison. The prepared kernels would be dehydrated in the sun and stored away for use over takurua (winter) when food supplies were scarce. The kernels were ground up into a type of flour, then mixed with water to make bread. 

Karaka is also the Māori term for the colour orange, named for the bright orange berries which appear during raumati (summer) and ngahuru (autumn). Karaka leaves are also used as rongoā (traditional Māori medicine), with the shiny green upper surface applied to wounds to speed healing. 

Karaka berries are a favourite food of the kererū (New Zealand pigeon). They are the only native bird large enough to swallow the berries. The kernels are not digested and are returned to the ground in bird droppings, which in turn become trees.  Kererū are known as the gardeners of the sky, as they are the only birds capable of distributing the large seeds of trees such as karaka. The kererū and the karaka trees are dependent upon one another; the kererū needs the trees for food, and the trees need the kererū to spread their seeds. 

This stunning grove of California redwoods, a local landmark, was planted in 1927 by the Chambers family, who noted the similarities in climate between Hawke’s Bay and coastal California. The trees have thrived in the low-lying Te Hau Valley, with many now standing over 40 metres tall. 

California redwoods are the tallest living tree species on Earth, growing to more than 100 metres high and up to 9 metres in diameter. They are among the oldest living things on Earth, with a lifespan of 500 to over 2000 years. 

The name ‘redwood’ comes from the distinctive reddish colour of the bark and heartwood. Growing up to 30cm thick, the bark provides a good layer of defence and ensures a long life, protecting against the natural enemies of the forest: insects, fungi, and fire. 

Studies show that redwoods capture more carbon dioxide, a leading cause of climate change, than any other tree on Earth.  Through photosynthesis, redwoods transform carbon dioxide into the oxygen we breathe, making these trees true climate change heroes. Learn more about redwoods.

One of the smaller redwood groves, known as the Little Redwoods, is located in the Te Heu Valley near Webb’s Bush and is another frequented location in the Park. It was planted in 1974 by Hastings Rotary Club, propagated by Don Wilson, nurseryman of Hastings, from seeds imported from California.  It is one of the most accessible areas for families to play and school groups to meet for educational sessions and is often used as such.

A variety of species call the redwoods home. The dark, moist forest floor provides an ideal environment for organisms such as slaters, beetles, worms and spiders. Beneath the forest floor is a microscopic network of fungus, with the ‘fruit’ (mushrooms) appearing above ground after rain. An abundance of birdlife can be seen or heard within Te Heu Valley. 

Another resident of the redwoods is the Te Mata beetle, endemic to Te Mata Park. Mecodema temata is part of the Carabidae family and is a carnivorous beetle. These tiny creatures and vast numbers of other living things, many undiscovered, are crucial members of the life-giving system which allows humans to survive. 

Redwoods do not survive alone; they form tribes or communities of rooted connections. They thrive in thick groves where the roots intertwine and fuse together, creating strength and stability. The roots are not deep, but very wide, and can spread up to 30 metres, creating a web of interdependence. When a tree dies and begins decomposing, a new sapling grows in its place to ensure the survival of the surrounding community of trees.  Learn more about redwoods.

Native Trees and Shrubs

Exotic Plants

Grasses, and Grass-like plants

Ferns

Fungi

Invasive weeds