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Search Mounted for Top Native Plant

Media Release

7 August 2006

Search Mounted for Top Native Plant

Forget Dancing with the Stars or New Zealand Idol… Kiwis with an interest in the heritage and identity of their country are being asked to vote for their favourite native plant.

Organised by the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network (NZPCN), the web-based poll covers plants of every kind, from the smallest ferns and grasses, to lowland trees and the mighty forest podocarps.

Network spokesman John Sawyer says the poll, opens to coincide with Conservation Week, is a great opportunity for people to reflect on what makes New Zealand unique and personal. Previous polls have identified pohutukawa, kowhai, cabbage tree, kauri, nikau and rimu as firm favourites, but tastes have changed and awareness of New Zealand’s plant diversity is increasing. The 2005 poll identified Cook’s scurvy grass (Lepidium oleraceum, common name “nau”) as top of the popularity stakes.

“With naturalised exotic species now outnumbering native species (2440 to 2359) it is important to remember what our native plants mean to us, to our landscape, and to our native fauna,” says Mr Sawyer.

Voters are also invited to make a comment about the plant of their choice, and in many cases this reveals a deeper connection between the physical environment and national identity. As an example, one voter for Cook’s scurvy grass wrote: "Hey nau, hey nau, don't dream it’s over!"

John Sawyer says the Network is expecting strong interest. “People may be surprised, but our website gets about 25,000 visitors a month. There are a lot of people who have a real love of our native flora, and this is a chance for them to express what is important to them.”

“It’s also an opportunity for landscape and conservation managers to take note of the shift in public attitudes and to find ways to incorporate these values into our public and open spaces.”

The poll will also determine the regional variation in the plants voted most favourite, from Northland to Southland.

Votes can be cast on the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network website: Voting closes on November 30, and results will be announced by one of the patrons of the NZPCN, Rob Fenwick, of Living Earth Ltd.


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