Franz Josef & Fox Glacier Schools, Westland
On 18th October 2016, Murray Dawson and Robinne Weiss returned to Westland to teach at Franz Josef Glacier School for the day.
In addition to the 24 students from Franz Josef Glacier, Fox Glacier School teacher Lisa Bron brought three of her older students north to join in on the weed related activities.
Our educator Robinne Weiss led the indoor classroom activities as usual. We split the class into two groups and for the outside field work, we collected weeds in the school grounds and next door in the extensive block of land owned by the Franz Josef Top 10 Holiday Park. Behind the school there is a corridor of tall native forest, but seeing as we were looking for weeds, we spent little time in the forest.
Nina Robb (Biodiversity Ranger and Weedbuster based at the Franz Josef DOC office), who was with us at Whataroa School, again scoped out the local area and joined us at Franz.
For the last session of the day, Myles Riki from DOC visited the school. Myles is a hands-on expert at controlling and removing weeds by spraying and physical removal. He worked alongside Murray to help the students put plants in our presses and spoke to them about how to control the weeds that they collected.
What were some of the plants that we found?
Again, we found the usual widespread environmental weeds of Westland (and elsewhere) including, among others:
- creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens)
- English ivy (Hedera helix)
- montbretia (Crocosmia × crocosmiiflora).
Cotoneasters were rampant in the Holiday Park next to the school, from mature trees that were planted to numerous seedlings and all sizes in-between. We observed at least three different species from this site – Cotoneaster franchetii, C. simonsii and C. glaucophyllus. Cotoneasters are a major problem in many areas of Westland, including our later field site behind Kaniere School.
Hypericum was commonly found in the Holiday Park, but we are currently unsure if it is a cultivated variety or the invasive tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum).
We also discovered more than a dozen saplings of European alder (Alnus glutinosa), happily establishing themselves in the street-front garden beds of the Holiday Park. These have presumably come from seed dispersed from specimen trees planted somewhere nearby (but not seen by us). Elsewhere in New Zealand, alder has been noted to be widespread and weedy, especially in the Waikato and Wairarapa .
We puzzled over a bronze-leaved groundcover growing in the lawn of the school grounds. Murray suspected this to be a native gunnera. He confirmed this when he found more of this mystery plant growing in the Holiday Park grounds next door. There, both sexes were observed in flower. This low-growing native gem, Gunnera prorepens, was seen thriving in the damper areas of the turf. There does not appear to be any other collections in the Allan Herbarium of this species from Franz Josef, but Westland seems to be a stronghold for this species.
Other native plants observed include: