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Rare mistletoe at Waingake

Monday 19 December, 2022

Back in 2017, botanists Don McLean (DoC) and Abi Salmond (GDC) spotted a rare NZ mistletoe growing on a black beech tree in Waingake Waterworks Bush while undertaking fieldwork. The location of the find was recorded on GPS, but the health and existence of the plant remained un-monitored over the last 5 years.

In November this year Don McLean (now GDC’s Catchments and Biodiversity Team Leader) went on a hikoi with some members of the Waingake Ngahere Ora team into the bush block where the town water comes from.  The goal was to find the special plant that hadn’t been seen for 5 years. 

The team got up close to some massive rimu and matai trees on the hikoi. Despite the GPS waypoint giving the approximate location of the rare plant, picking out the exact tree that the elusive mistletoe was growing on in dense forest proved challenging. The team were on the cusp of admitting defeat, assuming the plant to be gone, when a final push to check all the black beech trees growing along a spur paid off.

The team found the plant again but it had been decimated by possums. Mistletoe is a plant which grows on a host tree and gets nutrients from it (semi parasitic).  They are like ice cream to possums which is why they are very rare.  The type found at Waingake has red flowers and is only hosted on black beech trees.  

The team are in the process of setting up a system of traps through the bush block at Waingake to help the general health of the bush and this should help the mistletoe plant recover.  Mistletoe is hard to see, it's often found when people walking in the bush see red flowers on the ground just before Christmas.

The Ngahere Ora team now has their eyes out for this species of mistletoe plant. There is one other known location of a different species of mistletoe within the Waingake reserve. The team will keep a lookout for flowers on the beech ridges in December whilst undertaking their mahi to see if any other plants are about.

This was the type of mistletoe at Waingake


more information about mistletoe


Abi Salmond with mistletoe on Black Beech