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New Zealand Plants and their Story

Meadows in General.*

Meadows in General.*

When the early settlers reached their, antipodean home they must have been struck by the absence of green fields gay with buttercups, daisies, cuckoo-flowers, coltsfoot, and oxeyes, and would have laughed at the idea of New Zealand meadows. To many, even yet, it may seem absurd to compare the tussock slopes with the emerald hillsides of Britain. As for wild flowers, there are some who remember regretfully those of the Motherland, and lament that their adopted home has nothing to offer in exchange for the cowslips, primroses, anemones, bluebells, and heather of their youthful days.

Be all this as it may, New Zealand has plenty of natural meadows in a plant-geographical sense, if not in that of our boyhood. For those who will seek them, too, it has also wild flowers that can vie in beauty with those of any other region.

Natural meadows are a distinct expression of climate and soil, and, as stated in the first chapter, forest would cover the whole land were there no inhibitory circumstances. Such, however, exist, the most important being altitude, the nature of the soil, and climatic influences, especially constant wind. The tussock meadows of the Canterbury Plain, of the tableland near Mount Ruapehu, and of the slopes of so many of our mountains are expressions of the above fact. So, too, are the alpine meadows above the forest-line (fig. 38).

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In the wet districts meadows are lacking, except on the high mountains In the drier parts, such as eastern Hawke's Bay, eastern and central Otago, and the Canterbury Plain, they are much in evidence, and, where the soil is very stony, may even merge into deserts.

Besides the meadow lands just mentioned, there are in the Dominion many others where the fields are green enough, and where, at any rate, buttercups, daisies, and oxeyes are not absent, much to the regret of the farmer. But such fields are quite artificial, and afford
Fig. 38.—Forest (Nothofagus cliffortioides) giving place to Grass-land, the effect of wind. Near Source of River Poulter, Canterbury.[Photo, L. Cockayne.

Fig. 38.—Forest (Nothofagus cliffortioides) giving place to Grass-land, the effect of wind. Near Source of River Poulter, Canterbury.
[Photo, L. Cockayne.

merely examples of the changes wrought by man—changes which he accomplished long ago in the British Isles, where the meadows, and forests too, for that matter, must be entirely different from those of primeval Britain, and where no natural combinations of plants now exist. And since the advent of the white man, New Zealand has year by year changed more and more, so that had not great national parks been wisely set aside, where it is to be hoped the vegetation will ever page 86remain undisturbed, the time would not have been far distant when the Dominion's beautiful vegetation—her most special characteristic —would be confined to a comparatively few spots of limited area.

* Plant-geographically our " meadows " really belong to different biological categories, such as steppe, fell-field, &c.; but, as these terms are by no means clearly defined, I still use the term " meadow," as in my writings in general.