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What to plant

This section aims to provide advice on selecting the most appropriate plants for your ecological restoration site. It should be noted that not all sites require planting and your focus may be on pest control and natural plant regeneration. If you have decided to plant, the information and links below will help to get you started. This includes general advice for the whole country but also some region-specific information for some regions. We recommend reading information for your region as well as the general advice so that you get the best, most locally appropriate advice.

Group of voluteers planting on a hill
Catchpool volunteers. DOC

It is important that you study the locality of your site, and ascertain what native species occur naturally and are thriving in the area. We recommend that you plant eco-sourced plants, (insert link to eco-sourced page)

Alternatively you can check with your local regional council or native plant nursery which plants are best for your project, or choose from a range of publications, some of which are available for free from Regional Councils.

If you are planting in bare ground you will have the greatest success using hardy plants, often referred to as 'colonising species'. They can tolerate full sun, wind, harsh soil conditions and competition and, once established, provide a good environment for other plants that require more shelter to establish.

Once the colonizing plants are establishing in your project area you can consider ‘enrichment planting’.  That is planting others species that are less hardy, rare or regionally distinct and that can be reasonably expected to have once existed at your site, diverse types of plants such as vines, grasses and ferns, and additional long term canopy trees.  Theses can be planted amidst or under the established colonizing species, or they could be planted in ‘blanks’ or gaps where occasional plants have died or failed to establish following the initial planting. 

Think about toxins, bees and other health and safety issues

When choosing the plants to use and bear in mind that a number of plants pose risks to people.

  • Avoid planting species that are toxic to animals (e.g. tutu, poroporo, ngaio) beside trails used by horse riders or next to paddock fences.
  • Think about whether poisonous berries would be a problem in an area that has a lot of use by small children.
  • Coriaria (tutu) species can poison honey if the introduced passionvine hopper is present in the area (i.e. north of the 42 degrees South Parallel).  For more information on tutu in honey, see the managing tutin contamination in honey from Ministry for Primary Industries. While this species is a good colonizer, we do not recommend that it be planted in those regions unless it is already commonly present in or near the planting site.
  • Karaka nectar has been reported to be toxic to bees.
  • Tree nettle, bush lawyer, speargrass, toetoe and similar species may be a hazard or make things unpleasant for track users, so planting sites should be carefully chosen.  You will also need to think about safety of volunteers when planting these types of species.

Thinking about nectar and fruit for animals

It is worth thinking about whether you can enhance available nectar and fruit for birds, bees, lizards and native invertebrates. While these may provide a ready feed source for maintaining and attracting native fauna to your project area, the species they attract may also play an important role in redistributing seed around your site and beyond, further facilitating revegetation. Plants vary considerably in how valuable they are as a food source for animals, and what time of year they provide that food.

For bees, the Trees for bees nz has some useful information. Bare in mind that exotic honey bees may also compete with indigenous fauna for nectar and pollen. The paper honeyeaters and the New Zealand forest flora: the untilisation and profitability of small flowers (144 KB, .PDF) provides a list of native flowers on Kapiti visited most often by honeyeater birds. The Forest & Bird page creating a lizard friendly garden has a list of lizard food plants.

National Advice

Regional Planting Resources

North Island

Auckland Resources
Bay of Plenty Resources
Gisborne Resources
Hawkes Bay Resources
Manawatu Resources
Northland Resources
Taranaki Resources
Waikato Resources
Wellington Resources

South Island

Canterbury Resources
Marlborough Resources
Otago Resources
Southland Resources
Tasman Resources

Next: Ecosourcing seeds and plants

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