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Pikirangi (green mistletoe) makes its way to ZEALANDIA
Pascale Michel

Pikirangi (green mistletoe) makes its way to ZEALANDIA

ZEALANDIA has received the precious fruits of the rare plant, pikirangi or green mistletoe (Ileostylus micranthus). This species has disappeared from Te Māra a Tāne (the sanctuary valley) and Wellington City, and is rare in the wider Wellington region.

Pikirangi is a parasitic plant of native and exotic trees. It produces a small green flower and stunningly bright orange berries. It has a broad range of hosts and in the Wellington region generally grows on poataniwha (Melicope simplex), totara (Podocarpus totara) and various Coprosma species including C. propinqua and C. robusta. It is also reported to grow on kowhai and Pittosporum species, including kohukohu (black matipo, Pittosporum tenuifolium) and tarata (lemonwood, Pittosporum eugenioides). 

Pikirangi prefers shaded and sheltered sites. This being said, they like to feel the sun on their leaves and the air blowing around them. Thus west and north facing sites are best to propagate this species. 

ZEALANDIA is an ideal site to establish mistletoe populations that birds can later disperse to the surrounding native bush or further afield to green, leafy areas of Wellington City.  ZEALANDIA provides great habitats for this species as it has substantial populations of potential host tree species, large areas that are sheltered but exposed to late evening sun, no grazing predators and plenty of birds and lizards to disperse the seeds. 

The seeds propagated into the sanctuary were from a population at risk of dying due to its host tree species, a tree lucerne (Chamaecytisus palmensis), having reached the end of its life. This Upper Hutt population is the closest known population of pikirangi to ZEALANDIA. Thus, the ZEALANDIA conservation team joint forces with Greater Wellington Regional Council, Forest & Bird, Ngā Manu and Otari-Wilton Bush Reserve in a rescue effort to propagate this population and re-establish pikirangi in Wellington City. 

Fruits were collected in the morning and brought to ZEALANDIA in the afternoon. They were “squished” onto branches of tree lucerne, as replicating the growth conditions of the mother plant will increase the chance to have her babies establishing. Seeds were also propagated onto numerous native tree species including kohukohu, kowhai and small Coprosma shrubs. In addition, a few seeds were propagated onto pot plants which will be planted later in the season as part of the broader restoration plan for the Keith Taylor wetland.

The weather was with us for this fun and exciting day. We particularly would like to thank Rhys Mills (Ngā Manu) and Finn Michalak (WCC-Otari-Wilton Bush Reserve) for their contribution and hard-work in bringing pikirangi to ZEALANDIA, and Travis Moody (GWRC-Flood Protection) and Alan Sheppard (Royal Forest & Bird Society) for their support in this propagation effort. We also acknowledge Tony Silbery (DOC Masterton) for sharing his long-time experience and knowledge in the propagation of mistletoe.


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