Answers and links are provided below for the following FAQs:
Native flora and fauna
Wetlands and waterways
Pests and plant protection
Planning and advocacy
What is ecosourcing?
Ecosourcing refers to the propagation of native plants from local areas and the planting of them back within the same region.
Ecosourcing is often used in restoration projects because locally sourced plants are thought to be more likely to survive than those from further away. This is because species are often better adapted to local conditions. For example, if planting northern rata in Wellington City then using local seed sources is likely to be more efficient and effective than sourcing rata plants from a different region.
For more information on ecosourcing:
NZ Plant Conservation website.
Ecosourcing, Department of Conservation
Where can I buy native plants?
Many garden centres and nurseries sell native plants. We encourage the use of ecosourced plants so ask your local nursery about these. If they cannot supply them they may know who can. Alternatively you can contact your local council or DOC office for advice.
What are the best native plants to plant?
How do you know if a plant is native or non-native?
There are very simple and effective ways of identifying plants if you have time and inclination. One important identification step in any situation is to observe whether the plant has a flower, seed, or cone, as these are helpful points of reference.
For identifying trees, take a sample or photograph of the leaves, and consult the book Native Guide to the New Zealand Forest - Dawson and Lucas. This book has photographic plates of most of the leaves of New Zealand forest species.
To identify small-leaved shrubs (possibly the most difficult task of all), take a sample or photograph of the leaves, and consult a book such as Small-Leaved Shrubs of New Zealand – Wilson & Galloway. This book has a very helpful key which takes you through simple steps to help identify whether a species is native.
Identifying sedges, rushes, and grasses, can be very difficult. The habitat in which they grow may be the best clue to their identity. If they are in the forest; the Native Guide to the New Zealand Forest - Dawson and Lucas- may help. If they growing in a wet area; Wetland Plants In New Zealand – Johnson & Brooke, should be quite helpful for both natives and non-natives.
The following webpages are also useful for helping with plant identification:
If you have no luck identifying a specimen, you can send a sample to Landcare Research Plant Identification and Information Service for free.
How many native plant species are there in New Zealand?
The native flora in New Zealand is uniquehaving evolved in isolation for millions of years! New Zealand has approximately 2300 plant species representing 90 various families, and of these about 80% of our trees, ferns and flowering plants are endemic (found only in New Zealand).
What does ‘biodiversity’ mean?
Biodiversity refers to the degree of variation of the life forms which are alive in an ecosystem, biome, district, country or even planet. An ecosystem’s health can be measured by its richness of biodiversity.
What does dioecious mean?
The term dioecious refers to a plant population that has seperate male and female plants. Individuals are seperated into:
- Androecious which are plants that produce male flowers only and produce pollen but no seeds.
- Gynoecious which are plants that produce female flowers only and produce seeds but no pollen.
Why are so many of our plants dioecious?
One popular theory is that due to the fact New Zealand has few specialised pollinators, such as long tongued bees, having individually sexed specimens is an advantage in prevention of inbreeding (self pollination). If a plant is able to breed with a near by specimen(s) of the same species, there is a likelihood of localised environmental resilience and adaptation.
The disadvantage of dioecious specimens is that if an individual is isolated the specimen is likely to not manage to reproduce. This would then lead to that species being lost from that area.
What should I do to attract native birds?
First, always set realistic expectations. Ask yourself: What birds are likely to come here?; and Where will they come from?; and Why will they come?
Second, focus on protecting ecosystems. Plant a variety of ecosourced natives that provide an all year round supply of food, including nectar, flowers, and fruit. Avoiding the use of pesticides helps to protect invertebrates- another important food source for native birds.
Third, attracting birds should always be done in conjunction with animal and plant pest control strategies. If you have ecosourced native plants at your site, birds will be attracted, feed upon these and disperse the seeds which can be beneficial. However, if you have exotic plant species with the potential of becoming invasive weeds (for example, any tree or shrub with red berries) birds will feed upon and disperse the seeds, which can be detrimental to ecological restoration efforts. All invasive pest trees and shrubs that birds like to feed on should be destroyed. Possums, stoats, rats and cats should be controlled.
Go to Pest Control page
Why are wetlands so important?
Wetlands are an indispensable part of New Zealand’s natural landscape. They are valuable as a primary habitat and essential ecological service. Wetlands naturally filter and slow the flow of water; often this will provide a buffer zone for flood prevention and soil erosion. New Zealand has lost more than 90% of its wetlands.
Does my wetland need areas of open water?
No, not necessarily. Many wetlands do not naturally have open water. You can create open water in these areas through excavating material out of the wetland or by installing dams but it can be difficult to keep these areas free from weeds and algae in summer, and dams can block fish passage. Besides, most native birds prefer swampy rushes and flaxes rather than deep open water.
In some cases – for instance if a wetland’s soils have dried up and become dominated by weeds – creating areas of opens water may improve the health of the wetland. You may need a resource consent for this work, so check with your local council first.
What type of fence do I need to protect a waterway?
In most cases it is best to permanently fence waterways with a seven to nine batten fence. However, in areas that are prone to flooding this may not be the best option. Your regional council can suggest a number of options that are available to ensure you use the right fence for your situation.
How can I tell what animal pests I have?
You can tell what pest animals you are dealing with by identifying the signs they leave behind.
Possum - torn leaves with ragged edges the stripped ribs are often left sticking out, scratches and bite marks on tree trunks and branches, stripped tree bark and broken shoots, fruit and vegetables eaten or with bites taken out of them.
Possums make a rasping coughing sound at night. Their fecal pellet droppings are oval and 2-3cm in size.
Hedgehog – doppings (scats) are a blackish colour with various shades of brown. Upon close examination you will see the shiny remains of insect exoskeletons throughout.
Mustelid (Stoats, Ferrets and Weasels) - droppings (scats) are long and thin, often with a tapering twist at each end. Mustelids secrete a thick oily yellow powerful smelling fluid called musk onto their scats. The scats are deposited in eye-catching places, such as the middle of a track, to warn off other mustelids.
Go to Pest Control page
Is marram grass not native? What can I use instead?
Marram grass is not a native to New Zealand; it was introduced from Europe and North Africa. The reason that it is not as good as other grasses, such as silvery sand grass/Spinifex for dune systems is that it tends to form steeply sloped fore-dunes which become highly susceptible to storm surge and tidal erosion. These dunes also bind more sand into their structure than is naturally available. This removes it from the natural system of the coastal environment and effectively lowers the height level of the beach. Grasses such as silvery sand grass, also known as Spinifex on the other hand binds less sand and builds lower gradient dunes which have higher resilience to tidal erosion making it a more naturally sustainable choice. For other options that may suit your restoration area, consult Plant me instead, a Department of Conservation publication which details what plants you can use in place of common/invasive species in the North Island.
Why do we need to release the weeds from around our planting?
Weeds are usually faster growing than natives, and will often out-compete a native plant. Releasing the weedy plants from the base of a plant allows that plant to obtain all the water, light and nutrients available in that locality. As natives generally grow larger than weeds eventually, releasing is a temporary and required measure.
Why does it matter that there are cows and sheep grazing near native trees and restoration areas?
There are some really important reasons why having cows and sheep grazing in a restoration area or near native trees is not recommended. Firstly, many farm animals that use trees for shelter are also likely to eat any seedlings which may germinate. This prevents the natural regeneration of the species, and when/if the older trees die they will not be replaced and those trees will be gone from the area for good. Secondly, as larger farm animals can be destructive of lower branches, the area loses an important buffering system for winds. Without the understory and edge buffers created by native trees, wind is able to blow through the trees drying out the ground. This prevents any seeds that fall to the ground from having a good chance at germinating. This is why it is recommended to fence off areas that have native remnants or new plantings whenever possible.
What forms of plant protection are available?
Young plants and seedlings will often need some protection from animal and plant pests as they mature. A range of options are available to protect young plants from animal species which may graze on them and exotic plant species which compete with your plants for water and nutrients. The best and most cost effective options will depend upon the size of your planting site and the animals which must be excluded.
For small plants, native trees and shrubs, systems such as Combiguard and Eco-Wool Mulch Mats are really effective for repelling animal and plant pests.
Eco-Wool Mulch Mats:
These are an environmentally friendly made in New Zealand product which suppress invasive competitive species and eliminate the need for chemical weed spraying. They allow air and moisture to reach the soil and your plants and they contain a number of nutrients such as nitrogen, sulphur, potassium and magnesium that feed your plants!
Combiguard plant protectors:
These are a New Zealand made invention from Christchurch. Combiguard uses an eco-wool mulch mat to suppress weeds while still allowing air and moisture into the soil in conjunction with a recyclable sleeve which helps to protect from frost, wind and pest damage.
For more information, or ordering please visit:
Where can we see an area like ours to get an idea of what our project may/should look like?
A good start is to browse the groups on the Nature Space website. Further information may be found by sending Nature Space a query in ‘Contact Nature Space’.
How do I get more people interested in my project?
How do I fund my project?
How to view .pdf files I have downloaded?
To open .pdf files download the program from the link below.
What is the latest version of the nature space manual?
The latest version of the Nature Space user manual is version 3.