Nursery comfortably exceeds initial goal

Processing pods . . . Mandy Low hard at work separating seeds from husks at Arowhenua Native Nursery. PHOTO: SHELLEY INON

It’s a growing business.

When Arowhenua Marae Native Nursery was established two years ago, the goal was to produce 180,000 plants to be grown along the lower Rangitata River over three years; but with that amount of plants already established along waterways in the region and another 250,000 trees growing back at the nursery, the team had easily achieved that.

Nursery manager Felicity McMillan said more than 50 varieties of native species were growing at the nursery, some of which were critically endangered such as Craspedia diversicolor and New Zealand linen flax.

They eco-sourced the seeds, which meant they collected seeds from the area the plants would be returned to, which allowed the trees to thrive in their specific conditions, she said.

The plants were to supply the upper and lower Rangitata River, but they were not even touching the sides of what could happen there, she said.

Comeback . . . The Arowhenua Native Nursery has managed to build a healthy population of Craspedia diversicolor. While the plant was formerly found in a few locations over the plains, it is now only known from Wakanui Beach. PHOTO: SHELLEY INON

The nursery’s seed team manager, Mandy Low, spent three days a week out collecting seeds along the Rangitata River through summer.

She said it was ‘‘a pretty good job’’ most of the time.

When sourcing seeds from the forest floor she was forced to lie down on the job, but not every experience had been that relaxing.

Her recent expedition, walking for kilometres in the 30°C heat and ‘‘screaming wind’’ carrying waratahs, had not been glamorous, she said.

She spent the remaining two days of the working week processing seeds and planting.

Their processing operation had come a long way over the two years she had been there, she said.

Dry seeds were her favourite to process, as they could be sieved easily, but they had developed a few tricks to sieve the wet seeds too, which had eliminated the need to rot them down first.

While 99% of the plantings were from collected seed, the rest were from cuttings.

Finding information on how to gather seeds had been gained from knowledge sharing, and they had been thankful for their ‘‘nursery guru’’ Lex Evans, who had helped immensely, Whaea McMillan said. Mr Evans died suddenly last month.

Previously classified as ‘”declining’’, New Zealand linen flax is growing in abundance at Arowhenua Native Nursery.

The former general manager had been an integral part of the the nursery since September 2021, and his favourite saying had been: ‘‘We not only grow plants, we grow people’’.

‘‘He was a very humble man who was really involved in the community.’’

For Mr Evans ‘‘everything was epic’’.

‘‘He was full of life and passion — we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Lex.’’

There had always been a want and a need for the marae to develop the nursery, she said.