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Local landscapes . . . The popularity of a museum exhibition on South Canterbury's limestone landscapes has resulted in the content being converted to book form. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

by Claire Allison

The popularity of a museum exhibition on South Canterbury’s limestone landscapes has resulted in a book on the subject.

South Canterbury Limestone: Landscape of Dreams – Nature’s Treasure Chest will be launched at the South Canterbury Museum on December 13.

Museum director Philip Howe said visitors to the exhibition suggested the information and large number of photographs would make a great book, so exhibition creator Hermann Frank picked up the idea and over the last few months had worked on the conversion.

The resulting book contains chapters covering different limestone topics, including the ancient formation of the landscape, Maori rock art, and modification for farming purposes.

It also focuses on the flora and fauna which live in this environment, reflected in the second part of the subtitle, “Nature’s Treasure Chest”. While many native plants and animals have disappeared from our region, some have found a refuge in the steep and rugged limestone landscapes.

Bush remnants provide a habitat for native birds and a haven for insects. Loose rocks and cracks are used for shelter by three different lizard species. Long-tailed bats both hunt and find roosts in such spaces.

A separate chapter is reserved for the extinct laughing owl, and the story of the last photo of this species, taken near Raincliff in South Canterbury at the beginning of the 20th century.

Another focus is an exclusive suite of plants which are found only on limestone, including some ferns, aniseeds, spider orchids and others.

Even more precarious is the situation for at least seven limestone plants which occur only in South Canterbury. Most of those are assessed as “nationally critical” on the Threatened Plants List.

The book chapters are complemented by full-page photos, which take the reader through all the limestone areas in South Canterbury from Waihao, west of Waimate, then from Gordons Valley, Limestone and Totara Valleys north to Hazelburn, and Raincliff right up to the Opihi and to Kakahu. The journey ends at the extensive and spectacular limestone escarpment west of Albury, the Tengawai Cliffs. It also includes poems and black and white sketches by Tracey Bingham.

Published by the South Canterbury Museum Development Trust and printed locally, the publication will be available at the museum for $35, and all proceeds will go to the Museum Trust.

The book launch will be at the museum on December 13 (delayed from the original launch date of December 6) at 7.30pm, to which the public is invited. The event will also provide an opportunity to buy the large prints that were on display at the exhibition.