Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Waipoua Forest, NZ: Botanical Wonders

There is not many a vegetable that we do not like. At home we have the thing called the sweet potato, and its cousin the yam, both of which we do savor. But here in new Zealand there is the kumara, a purple-skinned variety that makes me get more than normally excited for dinner. And here in the Northland we went through the otherwise drab town of Dargaville. Not worthy of note, other than the fact that this is the kumara capital of New Zealand, where 70% of the country's crop is grown.

One jolly kumara on the side of the road.

Kumara fields forever!

And just to the north there is another botanical wonder. At one time, before the arrival of European settlers in the mid-19th century, the hills of the Northland were covered with thick forests. Immense Kauri trees grew here, some thousands of years old and tens of meters in height and girth. The trees grew tall and straight, and made good ship masts in the grand era of sailing ships. This native wood was used to make many things -- mail boxes, furniture -- but also was a major commodity for export for this young and developing country. The forest was stripped for pasture, and all that remains are a few pockets of this once great forest. Visiting the Waipoua Forest was the primary reason we came here to the Northland.

The feeling of seeing these trees was the same as standing next to the great Sequoia or Bristlecone Pine -- how insignificnt our time on is Earth in comparison to a tree that is two thousand years old.

Fungus growing on the bark of this Kauri tree.
Passing trough a section of one-lane road, narrowed to fit between two towering Kauri trees.
A grouping of trees known as the "Four Sisters".
The canopy of the trees support a whole ecosystem of other plants.
Te Matua Ngahere -- "Father of the Forest"  -- the second largest remaining Kauri with a girth of 16.4 meters and height of 29.9 meters. 
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