Sightings of rare plant wanted


Project Janszoon is asking the public to report sightings of a rare mistletoe in
the Abel Tasman National Park.
The scarlet mistletoe, Peraxilla colensoi or pirita has “explosive” flowers that
are an important source of nectar for birds like tui, kaka and bellbird. It is
classified as “at risk and declining” and rarely seen in the Abel Tasman
National Park. A 2013 survey by the Department of Conservation found only
16 plants in the Canaan area of the Park.
Mistletoe is seen as one of the Park’s indicator species as it is very
susceptible to possum browsing. This month, Project Janszoon botanist Dr
Philip Simpson found another, previously unknown, site where the mistletoe is
growing near Canaan.
“No one can appreciate how rare the sight of a red flowered mistletoe is
nowadays. I noticed that the bases of all the branches of the trees nearby
were smoothed and horizontal, suggesting a long history of possums climbing
up, using the tree to gain entry to the succulent mistletoe leaves above. It is
likely that long term and sustained 1080 poisoning has saved this plant from
certain death,” he says.
There are three species of mistletoe in the Park, Peraxilla colensoi and P.
tetrapetala have red flowers and Alepis flavida, which has yellow and orange
flowers and has only ever been found in the Park once.
Philip is asking visitors to the Park to report any sightings of mistletoe.
“Now is a great time to try to locate these and get an idea of how others are
doing. These elusive beautiful plants are a treat to see and to have one
beside the track and only just above eye level gives truly a wonderful
experience,” he says.
As well as looking for the flowers another good way to spot mistletoe is to look
for flower litter on the ground. If you find a mistletoe please take a photo and
note the location, preferably with GPS coordinates and notify Project
Janszoon at [email protected]