Friday, April 3, 2009

2009. Omahu Bush Tracks and Trees

2009. Gibraltar Rock Carpark, Summit Road. Coopers Knobs backdrop, Port Hills Christchurch

One Thursday afternoon, I drove along Summit Road and parked my car at Gibraltar Rock carpark beside Summit Road. I wanted to walk a big circuit down Prendergasts Track and return through Omahu Bush via Kirks Track.

2009. Start of Prendergasts Track, Summit Road. Gibraltar Rock & south Canterbury Plains backdrop

I found a GIBRALTAR ROCK AND PRENDERGASTS TRACK wooden sign, with no dogs, no smoking, no bikes pics below. At the top of Prendergasts Track I walked through a ferny bit of Omahu Bush, passed through a gate, and admired the orangey, flaky bark of tree fuchsias, Fuchsia excorticata.

I emerged into grassland by the east side of Gibraltar Rock, and saw masses of gorse, Ulex europaeus on Omahu Bush trackside.

2009. Prendergasts Track view of Gibraltar Rock north face, Port Hills, Christchurch

I passed a junction with a sign pointing to Gibraltar Rock, as I'd already climbed pyramid-shaped Gibraltar Rock. It had rained the night before, and although it was mid afternoon, autumn sunshine hadn't dried mown grass on wide Prendergasts Track, which was slippery on steep sections.

Once I slipped on my bum, so hard I heard a click in my head and wondered what vertebra I'd ricked? Thereafter I walked carefully past masses of trackside gorse smothering the hillside.

2009. Prendergasts Track gorse & cabbage trees. Lake Ellesmere backdrop

2009. Prendergasts Track gorse. Lake Ellesmere backdrop

As I'd seen far too much gorse polluting the Port Hills, I wondered why Lincoln University and University of Canterbury biology students and lecturers were sitting on their brains and not providing effective biological control of gorse?

It was a cop-out that farmers and ecologists said gorse was a nursery plant for native plants, that gorse yellow flowers provided pollen for honey bees, and already introduced insect bio- controllers needed time to do their gorse chomping. The only bee hives I'd see on the Port Hills were near the top of Worsleys Track.

Over the last six months, evidence before my eyes was that Port Hills gorse infestation bested bio-control or spraying. Someone had sprayed Prendergasts Track gorse - ineffective, as green gorse still flourished behind unsightly dead gorse, stopping me seeing Omahu Bush properly.

2009. Prendergast Track view of Gibraltar Rock south face

2009. Prendergasts Track view of gorse infestation both sides of Omahu Bush

I dawdled downwards past the cool eastside of Gibraltar Rock, and looked back at the southern face of Gibraltar Rock and the highest Coopers Knob (573m) which I'd climbed before. I passed a wooden bench, and when gorse diminished I entered kanuka bush.

Near the end of Prendergasts Track, I walked under cool kanuka arches, and at track's end I came across a gate with a Cholecalciferal warning sign on the gatepost - to kill Aussie possums. Like gorse fencers, nitwits who'd originally brought possums to NZ had much to answer for.

2009. Prendergasts Track Kanuka, Kunzea ericoides, Omahu Bush

I turned left down less slippery Kirks Track through more kanuka bush. I walked over leaf-litter, mossy rocks and damp clay track, while passing ferns, whiteywoods, pittosporums and mostly kanuka, Kunzea ericoides.

I passed another wooden bench on my left, and off-track I saw a green plastic bucket with a net inside containing leaf-litter. Further on, off-track I saw a bigger white net, strung up like a hammock, to catch more leaf-litter?

2009. Kirks Track Kanuka, Kunzea ericoides, Omahu Bush

I came across a kahikatea white pine trunk entwined with a matai black pine trunk, beside a bent tree fern. Below the trunks green and white signs stated:

Dacrycarpus dacrydiodes

Prumnopitys taxifolia

2009. Kirks Track entwined Kahikatea white pine & Matai black pine, Omahu Bush

The kahikatea white pine was not as big as kahikateas I'd seen at Deans Bush, Riccarton, but its roots twisted over matai black pine roots. White pine and black pine were misnomers, as the white pine had dark-grey, flaky bark, and the black pine had grey and reddish-brown flaky bark.

2009. Kirks Track Silver Fern, Cyathea dealbata, Omahu Bush

Further along Kirks Track, I saw another green and white sign below a tall tree: KOWHAI, Sophora microphilla - a deciduous legume tree, with masses of yellow flowers, NZ's national flower. Along Kirks Track I saw bits of broken fern leaf and guessed it was a silver fern when I came across a junction sign:


I didn't walk down Rhodes Track as it went from cool Omahu Bush into hot afternoon sunshine across the valley. Beyond the junction, two more tree signs stated:

Melicytus ramiflorus

Cyathea dealbata

2009. Kirks Track Silver Ferns, Cyathea dealbata, Omahu Bush

2009. Kirks Track Silver Fern, Cyathea dealbata, Omahu Bush

Someone had named native trees along Kirks Track, the first time I'd seen such signs in the Port Hills. Climbing upwards, I left kanuka bush for a while, and followed a trickling stream on my right. Omahu Bush changed to mixed bush. Another tree sign:

Aristotelea serrata

2009. Kirks Track northwards view of Coopers Knobs, Port Hills

On my right, I passed an old, fenceless style and zigzagged upwards with glimpses of Coopers Knobs through breaks in the canopy. I passed kanuka and gorse again and passed another sign:

Pennantia corymbosa

2009. Kirks Track Kaikomako, Pennantia corymbosa, Omahu Bush

Kaikomako had purple to blackish berries. So many NZ bush plants had purple berries.

Zigzagging up Kirks Track, I passed unnamed and named trees: CABBAGE TREE, Cordyline australis; TREE FUCHSIA, KOTUKUTUKU, Fuchsia excorticata; KANUKA, Kunzea ericoides; whiteywoods; pittosporums; SOFT TREE FERN, Cyathea smithii (darker green leaves, similar shape to silver ferns, but without silvery ventral leaf surfaces).

2009. Kirks Track Wooden Bridge, Omahu Bush

I crossed a wooden bridge over the stream, and further up while sitting on another wooden bench, I quaffed CocaCola and enjoyed views through a break in Omahu Bush of Lake Ellesmere and the Pacific. I saw that Kirks Track dropped down the ridge below Gibraltar Rock, contoured around another ridge through Omahu Bush and went beside the stream up to Summit Road.

2009. Kirks Track southwards view through Omahu Bush gap

2009. Kirks Track Lancewoods, Omahu Bush

I passed lancewoods and FIVE-FINGER shrubs, Pseudopanax arboreus. I coolpixed a native wood pigeon staring at me from a branch. On other Port Hills walks, I'd seen small flocks of pigeons flying in the abyss, searching for berries.

All along Kirks Track, I'd passed PEPPER TREES, HOROPITO, Pseudowintera colorata, with their pale green dorsal leaf surfaces, pale grey ventral leaf surfaces, tinged with wine-red edges.

2009. Kirks Track Native Wood Pigeon, Omahu Bush

Slogging uphill, I passed a huge BROADLEAF, Grisilinea littoralis, then passed tree fuchsias before reaching another gate by Summit Road.

2009. Omahu Bush Info Board, Summit Road, Port Hills, Christchurch

I coolpixed Omahu Bush info board and walked up Summit Road to my car. My circuit walk took 2 hours 20 minutes, including stops for pics and rests. I'd had Omahu Bush tracks and trees to myself, and was impressed by Gama Foundation and Summit Road Society track maintenance and signs.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See NZ Bio-Control of Gorse Ulex europaeus

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