They all start as seedlings

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It is fascinating to watch seeds germinate into seedlings. However, germination and seedling growth can take such a long time that in the Auckland area, schools receive punnets of already germinated and growing seedlings so that they can plant most of their trees at the end of their first growing season. Even so it’s an exciting time for a school and its students when seedlings are delivered.

In Auckland, each punnet has an average of about 100 seedlings in it. Most punnets have small harakeke, ti kouka, manuka and kanuka seedlings. It is hard to tell the difference between harakeke and ti kouka and between manuka and kanuka when they are small.

The illustration below shows some punnets of harakeke, ti kouka, manuka and kanuka seedlings.  Have a look at these punnets. Can you tell the difference? Unless the punnet is labelled you cannot be certain. Sometimes you have to wait until the seedlings are a bit older.

You can visit the TfS website for some hints to help you tell the difference  between flax and cabbage tree and manuka and kanuka.

Harakeke, ti kouka, manuka and kanuka are all important seral or successional species providing the cover and seed beds for other larger and faster growing trees. This is why TfS plants them in riparian strips as well as for helping to control erosion. You can read a really good summary of the importance of manuka and kanuka here.

Mahoe and mountain akeake are also seedlings delivered to schools because they too are important successional plants.

A punnet of mahoe seedlings

Mahoe seedlings, also known as whiteywood, grow to trees up to 10m high. As a regenerating species it is best suited to riparian planting where they help prevent stream bank erosion, shade the stream and improve water quality. But they must be planted far enough back from the stream to be in well-drained soil and away from the fence so that stock won’t eat the highly palatable leaves. The berries of this small tree are eaten by a number of native birds, attracting them to regenerating areas where they contribute to distributing other plants whose fruit and seeds they eat.

Mountain akeake in their punnet

Pupils may also find mountain akeake in the mix of seedlings supplied. Mountain akeake grows into a bushy shrub or small tree up to 6m and is very hardy. It can tolerate dry conditions and hard frosts and will grow either in the sun or shade. It is an ideal revegetation plant.

You can find more detailed descriptions of these two plants on the NZ Plant Conservation website www.nzpn.org.nz

These small kahikatea seedlings could grow into a forest giant!

No forest revegetation project is complete unless the process of succession is assisted by the planting of trees which will eventually grow to dominate the bush canopy. Schools have recently had delivered small seedlings which will eventually grow into forest giants!

The kahikatea can grow to an amazing height of 60m – NZs tallest tree. Can you imagine these small seedlings, some still with the seed capsules attached, and only a couple of cms tall growing to this height?

Young students Sam, Christian and Kristian, keen TfS growers at Owairoa Primary School, (see below) are shown pricking out small seedlings into root trainers which when grown to  a suitable size, will be planted out by them. Who knows, one day they may see a tree which they planted become a really big tree!

By Dianne Patterson, TfS Field Officer Auckland South
 

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