In January 2020, Te Papa botanists Heidi Meudt and Antony Kusabs were hunting for uncommon forget-me-nots in a very special place: Hikurangi, East Cape.
A particular highlight of this trip was the collaboration with local iwi and other botanists. Here, Heidi recalls the trip.
A special maunga
Hikurangi is a special maunga (mountain) in the Raukūmara in northeast North Island. Firstly, it is the sacred maunga of Ngāti Porou. Secondly, as the North Island’s highest non-volcanic peak, it has an interesting subalpine flora, including two species of forget-me-nots! Finally, it is recognised as the first place the sun’s rays touch each morning in mainland New Zealand.
An awesome tīma
Ant and I were accompanied by an awesome tīma (team) – thanks guys! Importantly, Ngāti Porou representatives Tui Warmenhoven and Graeme Atkins were with us; Manaaki Whenua botanists Kerry Ford and Santiago Martín-Bravo – visiting from Spain – came to find native sedges and a species of woollyhead; and finally, Ant’s brother, Scott Kusabs – from Bay of Plenty Regional Council – also joined us.
Our main mission was to find the two forget-me-nots historically found on Hikurangi.
The forget-me-not hunting was only partly successful. A good population of the common species Myosotis drucei was found near the summit.
However, the uncommon species Myosotis amabilis eluded us, even though we think we were in the ‘right’ habitat.
On the other hand, we made collections of several other native plants of research interest, which you can see here or in the slide show below:
A dedicated kaitiaki
We were especially fortunate that kaitiaki (guardian) Graeme Atkins came with us. Graeme grew up in the area and has been a Department of Conservation Ranger for many years. He won the 2020 Loder Cup for his unwavering passion and dedication to native plant conservation.
Several years ago, Graeme and I (and our families) teamed up to collect native plantains like this one. As a result, we discovered a shared kaupapa and love of plants. Moreover, time spent together on joint field trips strengthens our botanical and personal connections.
Whanaungatanga – “It’s all about relationships”
The New Zealand botanical network in general – and Graeme in particular – are both wonderfully collaborative and supportive. As Graeme often says, “It’s all about relationships”. After our time together on Hikurangi, it is clear his wise words can be understood on multiple levels. He is talking about whanaungatanga (relationships) between people, between plants and animals, and between people and their environment, to name a few.
The Raukūmara faces some big conservation challenges. Graeme and his colleagues are about to help heal and strengthen such relationships there. Together with others from Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, and DOC, a massive project to control pests and protect the forests in the Raukūmara – including Hikurangi – is about to get underway.
Sharing botanical and cultural mātauranga
In conclusion, our field trip to Hikurangi was about more than simply collecting native plants. Botanical and cultural mātauranga (knowledge) was shared about the flora and history of Hikurangi. Relationships and networks were expanded and enriched, to the benefit of all. And a seed was planted for another field trip. So stay tuned to learn if we eventually find the elusive forget-me-not…