Native roadside flowers of Banks Peninsula
In late spring and early summer the road around Lyttelton Harbour is bright with many wildflowers that originated in exotic places – the Canary Islands, the Cape of Good Hope, the shores of the Mediterranean. If you want to see native flowers beside the road, however, take the road to Port Levy. In late October and early November the flower to watch out for, as it scrambles over shrubs and banks, is Clematis foetida. It has small yellow flowers and a sweet scent. In late November and early December (flowering now) comes the climber akakakiore or Maori jasmine, with tubular cream flowers spilling out of trees and over the top of shrubs. There are two species – Parsonsia heterophylla and P. capsularis – and Banks Peninsula has them both. Also scrambling (and clinging and scratching) is tataramoa, the bush lawyer (Rubus cissiodes). It has rather attractive puffs of fluffy white flowers, but they are best viewed well away from the stems and leaves of this scrambler (in the blackberry family) which are covered with vicious little hooks.
The Port Levy road also boasts a specimen of Banks Peninsula’s endemic (and hence rare) hebe, Hebe lavaudiana – but it has taken me ten years of driving that road to spot it in flower and positively identify it.
I’m usually too busy looking out for the easy-to-see and very pretty ‘true’ New Zealand flax – Linum monogynum or rauhuia. In the same genus as the linen flax (Linum usitatissimum) and the blue garden perennial Linum perenne, rauhuia has flowers similar in size and shape to L. perenne, but they are pure white. I have collected seed from the roadside plants and successfully grown the plants in my garden, but they never last long – 2-3 years at most. I don’t know whether that’s because they prefer the rugged roadside environment to soft garden beds, or whether they are short-lived anyway. Whichever it is – enjoy them by the roadside before their season is over for another year.