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Eduart Zimer - Mt. Zion & Karekare Beach (2011)

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This is just a pictorial based on a topic posted in Cactus Romania and ACC Aztekium forums (in Romanian). I thought it would be interesting to have it as a whole. Here is the English version.

Mt. Zion & Karekare Beach (May 2011) By the time I was posting this pictorial on Cactus Romania forum www.cactusi.com (May June 2011) I was still under the spell of this wonderful place... I had just walked this wonderful West Auckland track in the Waitakere Ranges in a glorious late autumn morning: Mt. Zion and Karekare Beach (both being scientific reserves). It was a fascinating experience not only because of the native plants seen (largely the same as everywhere in the area) but especially because of a true micro-mosaic of habitats: typical subtropical bush, rocky slopes, a narrow estuary, salt marshes, fresh water marshes, and dunes and beach, all in just a few square kilometers. As I was in a larger group I couldnt specifically look for plants, but I chose for most of the route to stay somewhat behind just so I could take pictures more freely. I will try to present in the following pictures the beauty and the magic of this route. Mt. Zion:

Although it is only 272 m high it is difficult to reach the crest (which is actually a small wooded plateau) not so much because we start climbing at sea level, but because we have to climb and descent and climb again and descent again and so on ... on a fairly rugged terrain. I guess there is Page 1

no problem in summer, but now on the brink of winter the main difficulty is the excess water on the muddy tracks, partly very slippery. There are just few open places; otherwise you have to go cross the bush with no complaints accepted.

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I take this opportunity to present a very common plant - improperly called New Zealand flax as it is distinctly different from the Northern

Hemisphere flax (Linum usitatissimum) and which is highly variable, the number of natural forms being in the tens - Phormium tenax :

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We continue with an oddity - Ileodictyon cibarium (Basket Fungus) growing on the path that climbs Mt. Zion. This particular mushroom had about 6 7 cm in diameter and although it is quite common it happened now for the first time to see one (or even three by the end of the day). It generally grows in dark bush corners, the

substrate being twigs or semi-decayed wood fragments. Because of the strange shape the fungus was named Basket Fungus, another name being Ghost Dropping as it grows out of nowhere in a matter of only few hours. Ileodictyon cibarium:

Another common epiphyte plant in the bush is Collospermum hastatum. In Maori it is called Kahakaha and in English Perching Lily. It is endemic in New Zealand and belongs to the Asteliaceae family. I dont know if I my photos can really re-create a glimpse of their real splendour! It is widespread throughout the North

Island and only in the northern half of the South Island. It is not exactly a heat-loving plant (but can withstand moderate frosts); however, it likes somewhat higher annual average temperatures. Obviously, Collospermum hastatum is a typical bush plant growing mostly as epiphyte up in the trees:

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Another interesting organism a lichen this time which is very common in Rangitoto is Stereocaulon ramulosum. I met it here in the bush growing in a less typical situation. I was a bit surprised to find it here in a very moist situation; I knew it prefers a very dry substrate (usually rock) and as I already said everything

here was soaked in water. As you can see from the picture it grows together with moss. I wonder how they share the place in summer. Interesting photo, however, because it illustrates the cohabitation (or struggle?) between two organisms encountered typically in two distinct colonization stages.

We are crossing the bush at a high pace and it feels like jogging in a tunnel we are still in the forced marching stage; if youre not interested in plants then its definitely nothing compared to what awaits us down the rocky foothills (but hey, theres still a long way to go). However, when the path approaches the edge of the almost vertical slopes we can see a glimpse of the Page 6

Karekare Beach here are two photos of the beach in the estuary area. Both photos seem to have been taken from the same spot but there was quite a stretch to walk (and some time) the 2nd picture is actually an 8x zoom I believe. Also some Phormium tenax and their dried blossoms can be seen in this photo (below, in the foreground).

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We also met the only New Zealand native palm (the rest of the species being introduced during European colonization) - Palmae rhopalostylis (Nikau Palm). In the 2nd picture you can also see the typical stripes on the trunk, formed as the old leaves fall. It grows mostly in the North Island but can tolerate cooler climates; therefore it is present in the south Island as south as the Okarito

- Banks Peninsula line (around - 43 south latitude). Palmae rhopalostylis is a palm with an up to 15 m tall solitary trunk on top of which a rosette of leaves is growing. Particularly younger plants are very spectacular and lend a tropical air and some exotic look to the New Zealand typical bush - relatively monotonous regarding the canopy species, wet and dark.

As you climb through the bush margin, the beach view becomes increasingly spectacular - this is the famous rocky dragon back in the water very close to the beach even at high tide (but now is almost low tide):

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We continue to climb Mt. Zion through the bush and near the peak we make a small stop for a sip of water and to re-balance our backpacks. I took

this opportunity to walk to a small promontory nearby and did manage to get a very interesting picture of the southern part of Karekare Beach:

It is interesting to note that few days later, while browsing the Internet for different info regarding Karekare Beach, I found several photos taken from exactly the same spot. We have climbed for quite some time, but now as we reached the summit, in order to get to the beach, we have to descent on a slippery path rugged, muddy and soaked with water and this was quite a stressful task I have to say. Obviously I had to take care of myself and also help some of my companions and therefore I didnt take too may pictures during this stage (I had to take my platoon rear guard role seriously); however, I

managed to stumble a few times without any consequences. But once getting close to sea level were ready to dive into a wonderful world - the strip of land between Mt. Zion and Karekare Beach (the actual beach) is a mosaic of highly interesting microhabitats. It is perhaps the most complex ecosystem I have visited so far. First of all - a superb sweet swamp at the foot of the rocky heights (from which, especially now on the brink of winter and after days of heavy rain, there is a myriad of brooks and streams of water, as I said all is soaked in water):

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Autumn and especially winter is not the most appropriate time to cross the swamp (you will see later why) but it is certainly the most spectacular time of the year because the seasonal nature of the swamp during summer (actually 4 5 months in a year ) the water levels are low or in

some parts it certainly drains completely. In some places, usually adjacent to the beach but sometimes inexplicably isolated in the middle of the marshes stand high sand dunes. Here are some photos illustrating their specific vegetation and ecology:

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In some places the path takes us quite close to bluffs that appear to be very interesting in terms of vegetation, unfortunately too far to see / photograph in detail (and I did not have time to scan the rocky walls with binoculars), separated

from us by a sweet swamp where reed grows in abundance. This is a New Zealand native species of reed - unfortunately I couldnt identify it (I only have suspicions, but I wouldnt like to say wrong names):

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After the mosaic at the start of the route on the beach, the landscape begins to change almost imperceptibly and gains a somewhat stabilized pattern: we have now in succession rocky heights, fresh marsh, sand dunes, salt marshes and the actual beach running in parallel strips. We walk northbound having the sun in front of us and in our left are the narrow beach and an unusually quiet Tasman Sea. There are some waves, and although Karekare is a surfing hot spot in its northern parts (there is a surf club

building at the estuary), the sea is much too calm for that and no-ones around (yes, the hard-core Kiwi surfers do it even in winter, especially if the weather is fine as it is today). After a while we reach an area where sand dunes have occupied almost all the interval between the rocky heights and the sea - in some places the dunes are not stabilized, but in others are covered in vegetation

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