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Christmas Cheer To Save Native Mistletoe

Christmas Cheer For Campaign To Save New Zealand’s Native Mistletoe

Efforts by volunteers and Department of Conservation staff in the North Island to save New Zealand’s native mistletoe are paying dividends.

The National Coordinator of New Zealand’s Weedbusters programme, Amber Bill, said while NZ native mistletoes continued to be under threat, work by volunteers and DOC this year had made valuable inroads into protecting the species.

“Native mistletoe is threatened to varying degrees by weed infestations, possum browsing, loss of native birds, and habitat loss,” Ms Bill said.

“Possums are the major problem for mistletoe in most areas, but weeds are also a threat to native mistletoe in lowland areas, fragmented habitat and semi urban areas.

“Christmas reminds us that our efforts, while an uphill struggle at times, are helping to preserve New Zealand’s unique environment,” Ms Bill said.

One of the most impressive recent mistletoe campaigns has been waged by a dedicated group of volunteers from the Rotorua Botanical Society, with assistance from the local community, Department of Conservation and funding from Environment Bay of Plenty’s Environmental Enhancement Fund.

Weeds are the main problem for the survival of many native mistletoe populations in the Rotorua district.

A spokesman for the Rotorua Botanical Society Paul Cashmore said that over the past two years, the group had tackled weed infestations on reserves at Lake Okareka to protect native mistletoes.

Two reserves at the Lake have large populations of a native green mistletoe species –Tupeia antarctica - as well as smaller populations of another green mistletoe species Ileosylus micranthus.

“The weed work has focused on removing a huge range of invasive species such as tradescantia, ivy, jasmine, convolvulus, blackberry and Japanese honeysuckle that threaten to overwhelm the mistletoe species,” Mr Cashmore said.

“The group also planted more than 500 mistletoe host plants this spring to replace the exotic weed species that have dominated the area in the past.

"New Zealand's native mistletoe species are semi-parasitic and therefore require the presence of certain native or exotic host plants for survival.

“We currently have an 80 to 90 per cent survival rate for the host plants. The big test will be the summer months, so we will reassess the plantings in February.”

Mr Cashmore said work to clear weeds and nurture mistletoe host plants would continue throughout the coming year.

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