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DOC gamble brings Maori medicinal plant back

High-risk DOC gamble brings Maori medicinal plant back from the brink of extinction

The Associate Minister of Maori Affairs and Minister of Conservation Hon Sandra Lee says a high-risk gamble taken by DOC to save a rare Maori medicinal plant from total extinction has paid dividends.

The plant, known commonly by Pakeha as 'shore spurge' and by Maori as either waiuatua or waiuokahukura and found only in New Zealand, was boiled and used as a natural treatment for skin trouble.

"DOC had been checking the one remaining plant on Motukorea (Brown's Island) near Auckland for three years in the hope it would yield seeds, but this didn't occur," she said. "The department's botanists were left with no choice but to try to take cuttings from the plant, at the risk of endangering its survival."

"I'm pleased to be able to confirm that the gamble has paid off, with two cuttings now successfully raised at the Auckland Regional Botanic Gardens, " Ms Lee said, "and cuttings or seed can now be collected off these plants."

DOC botanist Bec Stanley says enough plants can now be raised to bring the population back from the brink of extinction.

Shore spurge (euphorbia glauca) is a soft green-grey coastal herb with tiny dark red flowers, which once grew up to half a metre tall in sand dunes and coast cliffs around Manukau Harbour, Piha, the Waitemata Harbour, Kariotahi, the Hunua Coast, Great Barrier Island, Rangitoto Island and Motuihe Island. Introduced weeds and possum browsing may have been factors in the plant's decline.

Media Contacts to arrange a photograph of the cuttings and staff who grew them:
Ian Bradley or Rebecca ('Bec') Stanley, at DOC (Auckland) on (09)3079 279; Bec will also be on mobile this afternoon, on (025)2000.496

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