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Spiky seed head collection helps coastal dunes

Spiky seed head collection helps coastal dunes

Bay of Plenty coast lovers have been gathering spiky seed heads from sand dunes to make sure they have enough new stock for planting out next season.

Every year, Coast Care Bay of Plenty puts out the call for seeds of the Spinifex plant, a native plant that is used to help stabilise and restore sand dunes.

And every year local people take up the challenge.

Coast Care coordinator Greg Jenks has received about 60 large sacks of seeds this season, mostly from the Waihi Beach to Tauranga area. “It’s a fantastic result,” he says, “and it has great benefits for our coastline. It means we will now have enough Spinifex for planting next year.”

Mr Jenks says native dune plants help make sure local dunes can function properly again, which means better beaches and an improved dune buffer for all to enjoy.

Mr Jenks takes the collected seed heads to Naturally Native Nursery in Whakatane, where staff painstakingly remove the seeds and plant them out in seed trays. They are then nurtured until ready for planting out by Coast Care volunteers.

Coast Care Bay of Plenty is supported by Environment Bay of Plenty, the coastal district councils, and the Department of Conservation. Last winter, the Bay of Plenty’s 28 Coast Care groups planted more than 60,000 native plants, including Pingao, sand tussock, Shore Spurge and Spinifex, to help restore natural function of sand dunes. This year, Coast Care groups will be planting similar quantities of Spinifex and the other front dune plants, spreading the dune restoration effort even further afield.

Spinifex, which occurs naturally on New Zealand’s coastal dunes, will grow more aggressively in the dune environment than most other plants. “They have a very high tolerance to salt water and cope well if smothered by sand, unlike any of the coastal plants introduced to New Zealand, even Marram,” Mr Jenks explains.

Spinifex looks like coarse grass but is a silvery colour. It has creeping runners that run down or across the dunes. When mature, its large seed heads of radiating spikes blow free to roll about the beach until they become lodged and release their seeds.

Many areas of our coastline have been modified and disturbed by farming, recreational activities and development. As a result, the native dune binding species have been damaged or destroyed, leaving areas of dune unstable and without protection from wind erosion.


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