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Historic rediscovery of 'extinct' mistletoe

Historic rediscovery of mistletoe thought to be extinct


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News release
13 June 2006

Historic rediscovery of mistletoe thought to be extinct

Ecologists and conservationists are amongst those brimming with excitement following an historic rediscovery of a native mistletoe thought to be extinct in the Wellington region.

The yellow mistletoe, Alepis flavida was recently found on the banks of the Kaiwhata River in Eastern Wairarapa, the same area where it was last seen in1947.

The discovery was made by Greater Wellington biosecurity officer Harvey Phillips during a routine pest plant inspection on a 16 hectare property in the isolated Ngahape Valley.

Over the years Harvey has found hundreds of mistletoe throughout the region, but none are as important as this.

“Yellow mistletoe, rare in the North Island, and up until now believed to be extinct in the Wellington region, is still quite common in areas of the South Island,” says Harvey. “It uses host trees for support, nutrients and water and can grow up to two metres across, mostly on mountain or black beech trees, and is dispersed by the bellbird.”

“The mistletoes provide native birds with much needed nectar and food that is often scarce in forests.”

“It is thought that constant browsing from possums has seen the plant go from being relatively common to almost extinct. This discovery just goes to show what can be achieved by intensive possum control. I very much hope that we find more of these plants in the future.”

Property owners, Emily Friedlander and Bernard West, are equally excited about the find. “We’re privileged to be guardians of such a rare plant,” says Emily. “We’re passionate about our environment, having farmed organically here for over ten years. This is our nature reserve where we run an English Language homestay and a private walk. We grow natives, fruit, trees, firewood trees, nuts and now yellow mistletoe! We’re delighted.”

Department of Conservation botanist John Sawyer, who confirmed the discovery, says, “This is significant. Harvey’s name will go down in history for this. It’s almost sixty years since Alepis flavida was found in the region and our goal now is to ensure that it continues to survive and become self-sustaining.”
“It’s great to be able to say once again that we have eight indigenous species of mistletoe in the region, seven of which are endemic to New Zealand, meaning that they are found nowhere else in the world.”

A specimen of the yellow mistletoe will soon be stored at the Te Papa herbarium in Wellington so interested people will be able to see it for themselves.

ENDS

For information on Kaiwhata Walk visit www.kaiwhatawalk.co.nz

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