News and Events

Ponga or Punga?? Otatara School Monday 18 March 2019

The learning about classroom plants continued with room 5 of Otatara School visiting the Community Nursery and Education Centre. Firstly we distinguished between Punga (a collective term used to include all tree ferns) and Ponga (the specific Maori name for the silver fern). The Ponga or silver fern doesn’t grow in Otatara but the wheki ponga does. The classroom came with lots of knowledge from their inquiries so far and they shared this with us. We then did a range of activities in the education centre starting with a game where we grouped ferns and talked about whether they are found naturally in Otatara - Wheki (hard treefern), Wheki Ponga (fibrous tree fern) and Katoke (soft treefern) are. Then we looked closely at the spores of fern leaves that Chris had collected from our NZ native bush and saw first hand that ferns do not have seeds, but have “spores”. We also learnt that different ferns have spores in different places, which is something that helps group ferns. Then it was off on a walk exploring the bush looking for ferns and wondering why they grow in certain places and not others. Our walk confirmed that ferns like shady sheltered places to grow. During our walk we also noticed many of the other classroom plants and had a very friendly piwakawaka follow us looking for the bugs we disturbed. We then talked about how difficult it is to age tree ferns (as opposed to tree ring counting) but that many tree ferns seen would be very old – the oldest can grow to 100 years old.

Great enthusiasm and lots of great questions made it a fun time. It is great to see the local school connecting with their local environment.

Bronwyn and Chris

Pokaka – Otatara School 13 March 2019

While it rained heavily outside we stayed in the Education centre and had fun guessing which of the 5 seedlings potted up and sitting on the table was Pokaka.

Students used the shape of the leaves, colour of the leaves, the size of the seedling to make their identification choice. It was revealed that two of the five were Pokaka, one native jasmine and two Melicytis. How similar these plants look as juveniles! Then we looked at leaves to identify which were Pokaka. We talked about botanists, and classification and naming of plants, learning that Pokaka (Elaeocarpus hookerianus) is named after a person. We also got an indication of how difficult plant identification can be, especially when a plant is heteroblastic (has a different adult from juvenile form). Then it was out to the bush track where we saw an adult Pokaka with seeds on it. While in the bush we noticed all the seedlings growing…and again the students used their identification skills to pick out Pokaka, from jasmine and lancewood seedlings. This class is really getting to know their classroom plant.

Then it was back to the newly formed track and viewing seat where we pondered how forests are formed, looking at the different layers of a forest – that which was dominated by nursery or colonising species (like those grown at the Southland Community Nursery), and the canopy layer where we saw Pokaka, kahikatea and other canopy species. Back at the Education centre we looked at the Otatara School classroom plants and as we named them we talked about notable identification features. There was then one plant at the door to the education centre – what was it? Hmmmm…. we gave the hint that it was also a classroom plant…….Pokaka!!! That’s right – your classroom plant!….. It was great to have this year 5 and 6 class and it was great to see the students making their own notes on their learning. We look forward to having them back for their next visit.

Bronwyn and Chris

A big group can be quiet! 12 March 2019

On a warm evening March 12, nearly 40 Georgetown Cubs plus their leaders and helpers descended on the community nursery for a night of learning about the environment. We headed down the newly formed track and as we did an arm raised indicated silence (and for a group of this size we were impressed). There was a fernbird chirping nearby and some of us heard it. We introduced the threatened fernbird to this eager group and they learnt about its secretive habits, the habitat where it likes to live and what is being done to help this species (pest control and habitat creation). This group was the first group to use both the new path and the seat which is in a perfectly situated place to talk about some of the changes that have happened to the environment - both the vegetation clearance, and revegetation and habitat creation. Walking through to Bushy Point we talked about how communities can become involved in projects, and looked at just how a pest trap can work. Then back at the community nursery is was a team effort by the Sixes to collect as many mingimingi berries as they could to help out the nursery with this seed collecting. It was then fun to say Coprosma propinqua (mingimingi) 10x fast! A great night to be learning about the environment and great questions asked by this group.

Bronwyn and Chris

Otatara School going wild! Tarata - 11 March 2019

Each classroom at Otatara School is named after a native plant and each class has been given a potted plant and is visiting the Community Nursery and Education Centre as part of their inquiry learning. First off the blocks was Room 14 Tarata (Lemonwood) with teacher Tracey Maclennan. On a hot fine afternoon on 11 March Room 14 brought out their lunch after which we did a range of activities starting with a leaf quiz identifying tarata by its leaves and seeds and also looking at a range of plants that look similar. The class came with lots of questions from their enquiries so far and we discussed some of these in the Education Centre followed by a walk exploring the bush looking for tarata and wondering why it grows in certain places and not others. Generally it is not found in the dark bush but grows as a fast colonising species in open ground - https://www.southlandcommunitynursery.org.nz/how-forests-work/. During the bush walk, a student came upon a strange creature, which after sending a photo to Ruud Kleinpaste “the BUG Man” and our patron, was identified as a giant scale insect - http://www.terrain.net.nz/friends-of-te-henui-group/local-insects/scale-great-giant-scale-coelostomidia-zealandica.html. You just never know what you are going to find in the bush! Great enthusiasm and lots of great questions made it a fun afternoon for all and lots of follow up activities in the classroom are planned. It is great to see the local school connecting with their local environment.

Chris and Bronwyn

Native Plants for sale at the Community Nursery March 2019

Get your planting done before winter!

We have locally sourced, good sized plants in PB3’s ready for planting now – all $5 each – toetoe, Carex secta, mingimingi (Coprosma propinqua), Cabbage tree, Kohuhu (Pittosporum tenuifolium), wineberry, koromiko (Hebe salicifolia) Lemonwood, broadleaf, manuka, red tussock and a wide range of native shrubs.

We will be having an open day on Sunday 7 April so if there are specific plants you want, get in before then or they will be gone.

Phone Chris evenings 03 2131161 to make a time to visit or come along on a Friday morning.

Chris