Chapter XXX. — Pedestrians
About forty plants have attained their goal by pedestrianism—not, of course, by unbroken continuity of root-stretch from beginning to end of the journey, but by repeated portages over short distances, re-establishments again and again for another and another step inland, up-country, Tutirawards. Neither do I mean to affirm that these wayfarers have been too proud to have accepted from time to time a short lift on a roadman's shovel, the warm shelter of a stomach, the grip of a mane or pastern, a brief trundle on the wheel of a dray or buggy, the hospitality of a friendly hoof or woolly shank, the assistance downhill of a brimming water-table. They have, nevertheless, to all intents and purposes reached Tutira on their feet. Dozens of times I have met or passed each of them on its trek towards the station; I have watched them drawing nearer and nearer to its sacred soil; I believe, in fact, that not a weed thus moving towards the run by road has been overlooked. A natural inclination, I suppose born in me, to note small changes in my environment had grown gradually into a habit of watchfulness. Each ride beyond the run contained the element of anticipation, of hope, the possibility of the discovery of a new wayfaring alien; for nearly forty years the fortunes of these wayside weeds have been an interest in my life.
The mode of approach of no two members of the group has been exactly similar. Each has gone forward in the manner best suited to its predilections and peculiarities. Some have advanced with celerity and confidence, by leaps and bounds as it were; others have progressed hesitatingly, slowly, step by step, feeling their way; others again I can recall, laggards, faint-hearts, that were on the road in September '82, but which have not even now attained the station. Mangel-wurzel, for page 288 example, doubtless in the first instance swept as seed from one of the Port Ahuriri stores, then grew plentifully as far as half-way to Petane. It has made no further progress. Perhaps it was not to be expected that a plant loving the salts of the coast should willingly forgo them by an inland journey—but why this stoppage before the Tangoio Bluff? Why, again, has Alyssum maritimum, which used to scent the whole beach road for hundreds of yards south of Napier, never ventured northwards farther than the street edgings of Port Ahuriri? Sown inland as a garden flower the plant thrives, the seeds germinate in profusion; during the construction of the Napier-Wairoa-Gisborne road ample space of spoil was open to settlement, depths of pulverised earth, yet for some reason or another no single plant of alyssum appeared.
Garden scabious is another species which in the 'eighties flourished thickly over roods of reclaimed lands between the western foot of Shakespeare Hill and Port Ahuriri, yet although in up-country gardens scabious thrives, and although roadside conditions for a period might have been considered eminently tempting, not a specimen has stirred abroad. In the early 'nineties the shingle road between Hastings and Roy's Hill was overrun during four or five seasons by Centaurea calcitrapa, yet again there occurred no movement Tutirawards. Had Red Valerian, firmly established on the road cuttings of Napier in '82, been a plant of any enterprise, it too might now have been happily domiciled at Tutira. Breaks of fissured limestone cliff obtrude at intervals for practically the whole distance, yet it has never budged from its original home. I have often thought that the passivity of certain aliens provides only less food for conjecture than the spread and progress of others.
A short description of the way by which alone, before and during the 'eighties, the run could have been reached, will show the almost insuperable difficulties pioneer pedestrians had then to surmount.
We can take Napier, the port of the province, as the main centre of weed liberation. Immediately after leaving its streets an estuary of several hundred yards in width lay athwart the route. Over it sheep could be ferried, though horses towed behind had to swim the distance. Thus at the outset of the journey any weeds lodged in hoofs, or about the mud of pasterns, were destroyed. The feet and legs of sheep, too, were saturated with salt water, both in the leaky punt and in landing operations. Then came several miles of barren shingle; furthermore, a considerable river had to be negotiated, sometimes by swimming, sometimes by deep wading, in either event the sheeps' legs, feet, and belly-wool being washed clean. Then again, the road followed the coast-line for several miles, sometimes over hard, sometimes over soft shingle and sand. The hoofs and legs of all manner of stock were in fact thoroughly well cleansed before reaching Tangoio; for this purpose, perhaps, the long, dry, barren stretches of loose shingle and sand proving as effective as water itself. Droving, a tardy process at the best of times, became under these untoward conditions even slower, stages even shorter; more ample time still was afforded for sheep, cattle, and horses alike to empty themselves. Moreover, in such going there was but little chance of picking up new weed supplies. By the time Tangoio was reached the likelihood was gone, thenceforward the way lay over closely-nibbled hill-tops.
A more unpropitious track, in fact, for the perambulation of weeds could scarcely have been selected. It would almost seem as if the road, like some great beast, had consciously attempted to free itself of parasites by washing and dust-baths.
Under these conditions it is not surprising that travelling plants should in early times have been few and far between. Only a fraction of the whole length of road had been properly formed; from Napier page 290 to Petane it consisted of a narrow line of clay blinding superposed on loose shingle. From Petane, still following the general line of the coast, drays could be taken to Tangoio over natural flats and strips of sand, except when after heavy weather the pressure of lagoon water had burst the beach and temporarily blocked all wheel traffic. From Tangoio for two miles a switch-back riding-track sprawled over the hills roughly parallel to the sea. At First Fence the way degenerated into a trail faintly marked by the Tutira pack-team.
About the early 'nineties, however, Government determined on a dray-road to connect Napier and Gisborne. Natural difficulties of the more formidable sort were attacked simultaneously in many sectors, swamps were drained, cuttings blasted and picked out of ravines and gorges. Within a short period the road-line became open after a fashion to riders and pack-teams, with the completion of six-feet cuttings aliens began to move inland in larger numbers, with cuttings widened into fully-formed sections of dray-road they reached us yet faster. Traffic increased enormously, contractors' camps sprang up along the route, pack-teams multiplied, a weekly mail-coach was subsidised by Government. Finally, almost the whole of the stock traffic that had formerly followed the coastal pack-trail was diverted; the invasion of the station by road weeds was facilitated and accelerated by vast mobs of cattle and sheep that poured themselves along the new road. A living stream flowed through the whole length of the run from both north and south.
There remain to be recorded the chief recruiting-grounds, convalescent camps, cities of refuge, and multiplication centres of our pedestrian weeds. To begin with, all of them have reached the Dominion through one port or another. Most of the Tutira settlers have of course disembarked at Napier, or, as it used to be called, “Scinde Island,”—within the memory of man an isolated block of several hundred acres connected with the mainland, north and south, by shingle spits. Long prior to my arrival Napier had been thickly set with gardens and orchards; there were broad spaces, too, of beach, dumping-grounds for ballast, waste lands along the railway track and along roadsides, and wildernesses of reclaimed ground. Every such spot maintained its wild alien.
Scinde Island then, twenty-eight miles distant, was the first and foremost of the spots where weeds have germinated and multiplied ere page 291 starting forth to stock Tutira. Another weed depository would comprise the lands about the township of Petane, and especially about the native village of the same name, twenty-two miles distant. Unlike the ancient cultivation-grounds of the Maori, which have been described by Colenso as models of neatness and careful culture, a modern native village is forlorn, unkempt, and untidy in the last degree. Every such settlement contains a superabundance of land, only half of it half-tilled; vacant corners, unsown headrigs, widths of mud road, offer ideal germinating ground for virile ambitious weeds.
Still approaching Tutira we reach the Coastal Hill, of which the larger seaward portion is called Te Uku, the smaller Puke-Mokimoki. It is a low bluff or promontory fenced off from the neighbouring run, and therefore a secure camping - ground for travelling stock. When first known to me it still maintained what was probably its original vegetation—coast grass (Microlœna stipoides) and sparse spray-swept bracken. As, however, pastoral interests developed and stock traffic increased, these aborigines were speedily ousted, the Coastal Hill became the resting - place, sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for the night, of considerable mobs of travelling stock. In later days, consequent on the progress of the east coast, hundreds of thousands of sheep yearly camped on, trod and manured, the little promontory.
Besides stragglers of many kinds resting on their way, I have seen this camp at different periods under a dense crop of prickly thistle (Carduus lanceolatus), of ox-tongue, (Picris echiodes), of buckshorn plantain (Plantago coronopus), of Bathurst burr (Zanthium spinosum); for several years it then grew a sward of pure ryegrass (Lolium perenne); at present it carries a hirsute mat of Chili grass (Sporobolus indicus); doubtless when there has gathered on it a superabundance of manure, or when a severe drought may have exposed the dusty trampled ground to extra light, some new weed will take temporary possession.
Passing the County Boundary Hill, Pane-Paoa, a fourth weed-centre exists at Tangoio, another unkempt briar and bramble-tangled native settlement. At eight miles distance from that station, where drovers customarily halt their mobs at midday, there is still another weed-centre of lesser account; and lastly, a sixth, where travelling stock, temporarily blocked by a gate, used to tread the ground into dust, or poach it into mud.page 292
From northern ports, too, such as the Bay of Islands and Gisborne, pedestrian weeds have also reached the station; accommodation paddocks of roadside inns, drovers' camps, and Maori villages have, as in the south, proved their chief recruiting - grounds and multiplication centres.
Of these pedestrians, the blackberry (Rubus fruticosus) was, if not the earliest, one of the earliest to move inland. It stands forth—that fatal and perfidious plant, sown in the eclipse and dug with curses dark—as the single alien that is the master of the sheep, the one plant that makes a victim of him. Its normal habit in the open is to grow into an oval bush. Specimens thus shaped expend their energies harmlessly or comparatively so, although each season the base of the bush increases. Should, however, one of these tall cones be burnt, spread is accelerated laterally; huge horizontal shoots are sent forth, tentacles by which the victim is seized. A sheep but newly caught and still but loosely gripped exhibits an instance of inert brainlessness almost unimaginable; although one determined pull would free the animal, he yet suffers himself to remain anchored by a single strand. Tethered thus, further entanglement is but a matter of time; wool and bramble shoots become woven and twisted into a rope, until finally the sheep dies and its carcase goes to feed the triumphant plant. Perhaps unlimited time only is required to develop out of Rubus fruticosus a sheep-catching plant with more enormous shoots and yet stronger thorns.
No good word can be urged for the unhappy plant; not even its fruit, borne in vast quantities but lacking flavour, can excuse or even condone its iniquities. How and when the blackberry reached New Zealand I know not. Its importation is often, I believe, erroneously ascribed to the much-abused missionary; certain it is that the weed has not come into Hawke's Bay from the north. Its local origins are Petane and Tangoio, where long prior to my time stretches of blackberry hedge had been planted.
There were, however, even at that date, dotted along the road, bridle-track, and pack-trail, a sufficiency of bushes to fix it definitely as a line of human traffic. The pioneers of the east coast had in fact marked their pilgrim path in blackberries, for it is man himself who first carried up-country the fatal seed. Each offering deposited at each improvised temple of Cloacina on the road has erected itself a living monument to the goddess; whilst intermediate bushes could still be individualised, they were to be found more thickly in proximity to the parent plantations, more sparsely at longer, or as I may say, more costive distances. Owing to its ensnarement of sheep, the blackberry is the most dangerous, perhaps the one truly dangerous, page 295 alien in New Zealand. On hill land impossible to plough on account of gorges and land-slips, the only method of eradication is by spade and mattock; even then these diggings have to be gone over again and again: the smallest rootlet grows, even half-buried leaves will root strongly in damp spots. The plant, moreover, possesses an intelligence and energy worthy of a better cause. Again and again I have dug out bushes, especially on light lands, sending forth roots which a few inches beneath the surface have followed exactly the lines of sheep-tracks within range—tracks enriched by manure carried from contiguous camps,—removal of the soil has revealed a subterranean root-system corresponding to their sinuosities. It only remains to add that after sheep had acquired a taste for the fruit,—I have seen their paunches black with the berries,—and more especially after the arrival and increase of imported birds, who carried the seed everywhere, the bramble increased in a most alarming way. Although a fortune awaits the inventor, no weed-destroyer has yet proved efficacious. It is impossible not to look with grave concern at the future of many hundred thousand acres in northern Hawke's Bay.
Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) was in the 'eighties plentiful about the Port Ahuriri roadsides. It grew also in many spots along the clay blinding of the beach roads. There was a great patch on the sandy land opposite the old Tangoio homestead, between there and First Fence another carpet, then no further signs of the plant until Tutira. There this old friend still resides on its original site, where the trail strikes—or rather used to strike—the lake, close to the modern sheep-dip. It has survived changes necessitated by the widening of the pack-trail into a bridle-track, and that again into a dray-road. This grass was plentiful, too, about the sandy estuary of the Waikoau, from the river-mouth to the Arapawanui homestead. It could therefore have come up viâ the Maungahinahina by the native track. As traffic, however, was a hundredfold greater by the Tangoio route, that route has been given the benefit of the doubt.
Centaury (Erythrœa centaurium) is one of several plants first seen by me on that great stock-camp the Coastal Hill. In due course it reached Tangoio and afterwards Tutira, arriving at the latter place in one great stride and immediately taking possession of the track between the wool-shed and homestead. Thence, probably carried in sheeps' feet, it rapidly skirmished along the main stock-routes of eastern Tutira. It is page 296 a weed that has never taken kindly to a diet of pumice, preferring the roadside soils of the limestone area. Like many another pedestrian plant, it does not freely reproduce itself, lacking such stimulants as the trampling and treading of stock, the stir of soil by their feet.
Only these three plants managed to negotiate the old pack-trail before it was transformed into a road. Their small number testifies how well-guarded were the passes into Tutira—estuaries, salt beaches, barren shingle strips, unbridged rivers, close-cropped hill-tops, high, cold, lean summits of pumiceous ground. On each the highway of the 'eighties cleansed itself of seeds as an animal rids itself of parasites.
Hare's-foot clover (Trifolium arvense) was first known to me in '82 as one of the most common weeds of shingle beds in lower Hawke's Bay. I noticed a plant or two the same year between Napier and Petane. It then took possession of certain dry shallow soils between Petane and the Coastal Hill; thereabouts, for several years, its progress seemed to cease. Later I noticed it almost simultaneously on the north-facing baked bridle-track leading to Arapawanui and on the Tangoio-Tutira road growing rather wretchedly on two spots along its higher pumice-sprinkled levels. A year later plants appeared on an arid road-cutting close to the station wool-shed. It then followed the main stock-routes, and lastly, with a very pronounced pedestrianism, the sheep-paths. Now it is prevalent everywhere in the trough of the run, and in light lands affords a winter bite of no inconsiderable value.
Narrow-leaved cress (Lepidium ruderale) is a pedestrian I have followed up from the very streets of Napier. It reached Tangoio early in the 'eighties, and there for many years rested about the homestead drafting-yards. Only as the road progressed did it move inland, not infrequently in its travels choosing the angle of a hard road-bend as temporary camping-ground. It is a somewhat lonely plant appreciating trampled ground, liking to bake itself on almost naked clays, enjoying the dust of sheep-yards and the vicinity of road-edgings. In the home paddock and along tracks much used by the station collies, this sturdy, stubbly cress is largely used as an object upon which are recorded their more solid observations. It must be a very tickly plant.
Mallow (Malva verticillata), a southern Europe and central Asian species, first seen at Tangoio sheep-yards, advanced up the road without stop but without haste, never covering great distances at a stride, a single plant here and another there. Whilst on the march it grew nearly without exception on the highway's very edge, half of it clean and green on the wayside grass, the other half wheel-bruised and hoof-trodden page 298 in the mud. About sheep-yards, too, provided there is a sufficiency of manure, it is content to lie squeezed along the lowest rails of the dusty pens.
Another mallow, small-leaved mallow (Malva parviflora), has closely resembled its relative in mode of travel and preferences.
In the late 'eighties buckshorn plantain (Plantago coronopus) appeared about the railway crossing at Port Ahuriri. A year later it was thickly spread on all suitable sites along the beach road as far as the dry flats beyond the Petane river, where it grew in vast profusion. After a year's absence in England I found the plant densely carpeting the Coastal Hill camp. There was in the same year so thick a sward of it also on the Tutira home paddock that probably the weed had been missed by me on its first arrival on the run. An alien, as I have before said, suited by soil and climate, appears in the ratio of unit, hundreds and tens of thousands. I had overlooked the unit stage. The plant was probably flourishing in hundreds during my year's visit to the old country. By the date of my return it had again increased enormously. It has now, after the manner of so many new-comers, died back to normal growth, and is chiefly noticeable during dry seasons when the turf is brown and withered.
Vervain (Verbena officinalis), a species few would suspect of harm, but which by overrunning grass has proved a nuisance in a small way, is an alien of note. It has invaded us from the north, a quarter from which comparatively few road-plants have come. Its proper name has been temporarily lost, it has been renamed, and, what must be almost unique in popular botanical nomenclature, that name again lost and the plant locally rechristened; finally, it has resumed its correct designation. This alien from southern England appeared near Frazertown in the late 'seventies. It was first noticed on a station belonging to Mr Nairn; there it began to spread, and there it became known as Nairn's weed; the station then became the property of the late Mr Griffin. Now Mr Griffin, as chairman of the Wairoa County Council, touched the business and bosom of every up-country settler in the district. People knew him who did not know and had never known his predecessor; his office advertised the plant: presently, even in the page 299 immediate vicinity of its origin, the earlier designation was dropped, the later one assumed. It became known up and down the east coast as “Griffin's Weed.” From Frazertown it radiated in all directions—northwards to Gisborne, westwards to Waikaremoana, eastwards to Wairoa. From the last-named centre it advanced slowly—the plant was known to me fifteen years before it reached the station—viâ Waihua, Mohaka, Waikari, and Putorino towards Tutira. Like many another road-plant, it thrived best on trodden, trampled soils, flourishing most luxuriantly where travelling stock had thoroughly stirred and scuffled the ground. Native village cultivation-grounds, too, such as those of Whatatutu and Mohaka were completely overrun; on the other hand, for some plants are most fastidious and precise in their requirements, it eschewed long-established sheep-camps as too rich, ploughed lands as too loose, and marl as too stiff. As the best portion of the station has proved too good and the worst too bad, it has given no trouble on Tutira, the few plants establishing themselves about the homestead having been from time to time dug out and burnt. Elsewhere also the plant seems to have shot its bolt,—less is heard of it each year. Curiously enough, too, with an extension of range the weed has in great degree managed to shake off the provincialism of its early designation: it is becoming known by its proper name, vervain.
In the early ‘nineties, passing the little roadside accommodation-house of Marumaru, my attention was attracted by the gaudy, vulgar yellow blossom of ragwort (Senecio Jacobœa), fifteen or twenty specimens of which were in full bloom. As I came across but one other plant, and that within a few score yards of where the others grew, and as I ascertained by inquiries that the plant was still elsewhere unknown, there is good reason to believe that Senecio Jacobœa sprang into local life at Marumaru.1 The plant, from its conspicuous blossoms, was impossible to miss, so that every step in its progress towards page 300 Tutira was distinctly marked. Nowhere plentiful and nowhere wandering from the road, though with ample opportunity of germination on lands unstocked by sheep, it slowly travelled viâ Opoiti, Frazertown, Wairoa, Waihua, Mohaka, Waikari, and Putorino towards the station.
In spite of winged seed, ragwort in its wanderings has seemingly been but little assisted by wind. As I have said, during its migration it never left the roadside, neither have seedling plants in my experience sprung up thickly in the lee or in the immediate vicinity of the old seed-stalks. The agent of dissemination has been the horse, patches which have now and again appeared in the homestead paddocks bearing indisputable marks of passage through the equine stomach, scores of seedlings germinating directly in the droppings. Horses, however, do not willingly touch the yellow flowers or mature heads; in ordinary circumstances the plant is left severely alone. Ragwort has either been spread directly by drovers' hacks starved into abnormal tastes, or, may be, the shed seed has been swallowed amongst herbage cropped round about the plants by horses.
Hyssop loosestrife (Lythrum hyssopifolium) I first met many miles south of Napier. It was the earliest of several species of waders which have taken advantage of the roadside water-tables to reach the run. The limestone hills from Tangoio to Tutira are rich in rills which never cease to flow; along them the plant has paddled its way. Advancing from one to another such site it took several years to reach its goal, on down grades the weed advancing perceptibly faster than on uphill stretches.
Mayweed (Anthemis cotula) was one of those kenspeckle strangers which could not but be observed during its inland journey. During its up-country tramp single specimens were never seen. Little companies travelled together, halting to breathe and breed on dusty trampled ground, on stock-camps in the making, rather than on those well established and densely turfed. It never grew, for example, on the very highly manured Coastal Hill camp. As in the case of many of these wayfarers, considerable stretches intervened between settlement and settlement, for species are either often more exacting as to environment than would seem likely a priori, or else the many agents by whose assistance they advance take up, retain closely, and as suddenly drop the seeds. Mayweed was first seen by me near the Hastings railway station, then on reclaimed land in Napier, then near Petane, then about page 301 Tangoio kainga; then in a single season three separate patches appeared on the remaining length of road, while a fourth established itself on the run: it had moved from Hastings to Tutira in four years. Established as a huge patch near the wool-shed, it made during several seasons a half-hearted attempt to colonise areas of pumiceous land then under the plough; for a time scattered plants appeared here and there, but without the instant multiplication of a species thoroughly suited to its environment.
Strawberry clover (Trifolium fragiferum) has reached us also from the south—I believe from the Taradale district. A couple of thick mats, one close to Tangoio and the other a mile or so nearer, established themselves on sandy spots alongside the road. It then skipped the marls and pumiceous portions of the road till the sandy silt it loves was again available near the Twenty Acre Paddock and on the lake margin near the homestead. Many years later it was purposely sown, but has done nothing to justify itself as a fodder-plant.
Although fennel (Fœniculum vulgare) was indubitably introduced at a very early date on the Heru-o-Tureia block, it nevertheless merits mention as a road weed. In the 'eighties, and probably much earlier, it grew thickly in southern Hawke's Bay on the alluvial banks of certain rivers, on the waste lands of Maori villages, along railway embankments and other such places. There existed also in these days scattered plants between Napier and Petane and between Petane and Tangoio. They grew wretchedly on the clay blinding of the roads traversing sand and shingle; the plant dwindled in stature, too, on the poor hills along the coastal bridle-track. The nearest specimen to Tutira had early managed to establish itself thirty yards below the abrupt drop of one in three, down which the station pack-team in wet weather used to skid. There for years has that solitary plant, marooned in a green sea of grass, watched other passengers press forward to the goal of their high calling; there, indeed, it remains to this day. The actual establishment of fennel on Tutira proper only occurred in 1906; the plant, notwithstanding its early efforts to win an page 302 entrance from the south, actually did reach Tutira, not from that quarter but from the north. A mob of horses driven through the run from Gisborne sowed it thickly in their droppings over the paddock lent to their drovers for the night. Fennel is indeed largely spread by the horse, for just as sheep, if run on bramble lands, will devour the fruit, so horses in fennel paddocks will eat the heads and amplexicaul leaves.
Fiorin (Agrostis alba), though to my knowledge sown on the neighbouring run of Arapawanui in '85, for long and in a very extraordinary manner kept off the highway. It was not until twenty years later, and then almost certainly not from Arapawanui, that it began to move on the roads; established on the waste lands of the Tangoio pa, it then travelled inland at a rapid rate. The slow spread of so comparatively innutricious and unpalatable a grass can only be accounted for by the desire of sheep for change of diet—any change of diet. Surfeited with a superabundance of ryegrass, cock's-foot, and clover, fiorin stools, instead of being severely let alone and consequently free to mature their seed-stems unchecked, were cropped bare. I am the more sure of this as on fertile bush-land, sown only with grasses of the best quality, stowaway fog (Holcus lanatus) has in several instances to my knowledge been likewise cropped bare. Yarrow again (Achillea millefolium) has been established since the early 'eighties close to the Tutira-Arapawanui fence. Though a free flowerer, and possessing seeds so minute that several million go to the pound weight, the plant never increased. I have never known it allowed to blossom. For the same reason as fiorin failed to spread, yarrow has failed to spread. Until purposely sown the only specimens were the half-dozen near my eastern boundary.
The pearl-worts (Sagina apetala and Sagina procumbens) are so much alike that for present purposes they can be classed as one. Like Lythrum hyssopifolium they also, during their inland march, have largely utilised the water-tables of the road. About the margin of runnels and well-heads the plant often becomes a handsome cushion of green; one I recollect over whose verdure the bright drops of a little spring used to course like living pearls; its surface was so compact that each drop moved with as little loss of bulk as quicksilver on polished wood; the spring water was so clean that for the best part of a dry summer the surface of the clump was unsaturated and unsoiled. Each of these weeds has reached Tutira from the south.
Barley grass (Hordeum murinum) has flourished ever since I can page 303 remember against the northern edge of the Bluff in Napier, along the clay blinding of the beach road between Napier and Petane, and again at intervals and in similar situations between Petane and Tangoio. For years at the latter place it halted, unable to subsist on the colder clays, grassy tops, and higher altitudes of the old pack-track. With the new road, however, it crept up, selecting spots, the very poles apart from those chosen by pearl-wort and other waders. Sun, dust, and drought exactly suit this wild barley; cliff bases and sun-baked cuttings harbour it; now that the plant has reached the run it delights to live facing the north, squeezed up for choice against the lowest rails of arid sheep-yards, for though it can subsist in almost any desert, it is no scorner of good food.
Beard grass (Polypogon monspeliensis) I have watched travelling up from Taradale, five miles beyond Napier. When first seen in '82 this grass was thriving on wretched-looking land scarcely above the reach of the tides; then years later it appeared on the edge of the saline lands near Petane, then again after a long interval about a small surface pond at the wet base of the Coastal Hill, where so many travelling aliens have found a temporary resting-place and recruiting-ground. Another halting-place was the water-sodden land about Tangoio. From there onward it became a wader, paddling ankle-deep along several of the more suitable damp spots on the dray-road, three or four comrades together, never in large companies. Its first grip of the run was on the marl water-tables a few hundred yards from the Waikoau Bridge. Its chief hold on Tutira now is about the broad, wet, shallow crossings of the Kai-tera-tahi swamp.
Another beard grass (Polypogon fugax), which reached Tutira several years later, was first noticed on the salt marshes of Petane; it also, like its relative, whilst moving inland took advantage of wet ditches and water-tables.
Reversed clover (Trifolium resupinum) was earliest discovered where, rising from Tangoio, the road emerges on to pumiceous hills from the White Pine Bush. There for some years a fence crossed the dray-road, the closed gate of which, until tossed from its hinges by an irate drover, temporarily delayed the progress of travelling stock. This brief page 304 stoppage it may have been, with its consequent turf trampling and manuring, that was responsible for the arrival of this delicate refined little plant. Some years later I found a specimen on Tutira near the south end of the lake; now, though always a rare plant, it has passed the homestead still travelling north.
Few of my pedestrians have had a longer tramp than Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium). About '94 I first met the plant on the alluvial flats of Poverty Bay; then it appeared at Tinoroto, and lastly Wairoa. From Wairoa it came down to Mohaka, then, following the inland road behind Waikari, reached Putorino, and later again Tutira, the first-seen plant on the run appearing close to the bridge over the Tutira stream. Pennyroyal, doubtless, is of missionary origin, and might have almost equally well been included in “Children of the Church” group.
Bathurst burr (Xanthium spinosum) I suspect to have had its local origin in the north. I have found it, at any rate, growing more freely in Poverty Bay than elsewhere. Probably, therefore, the crop which at one time densely covered the Coastal Hill had been carried southwards from Poverty Bay by travelling stock, the barbed seed entangled in the tails of cattle and in the manes of horses,—I have seen a feeding horse touching a burr plant in an instant get his forelock covered with seed,—and in sheep's wool. On this great camping-ground for a season or two Bathurst burr grew with enormous luxuriance. As, however, it travelled inland, and towards greater cold and wet, the plant seemed to lose its vitality. It grew sparsely on one or two disused gardens in the Tangoio kainga. A single specimen appeared on the roadside between Tangoio and Tutira; only on two occasions has it germinated on the station, each time appearing on dug soils facing the sun.
Burdock (Arctium lappa) I first met in the middle 'nineties eighty or ninety miles from Tutira. It is one of several species which I think have of late years come from great distances, whose sudden appearance is attributable to motor-car traffic. Like the passengers themselves, seeds are carried by these swift machines greater distances in shorter periods of time. The foremost pioneer on the road appeared midway betwixt Tangoio and Tutira. In spite of my desire, however, to be page 305 able to register the plant as a station alien, the sheep-farmer triumphed over the weed-observer. I destroyed, though not without a pang, this solitary traveller while still at some distance from the run. Next year, however, burdock seedlings again had moved along the road nearer to the station. Now in 1920 they are close to my boundary. Having thus confessed that the plant is still an uitlander, the reader will condone its inclusion in my list of Tutira plants.
St John's wort (Hypericum linarifolium) has sauntered southwards in a very leisurely fashion, colonising one after another of the clay road-cuttings between Mohaka and Upper Waikari. The earliest specimen actually gathered on the station was taken near the bridge over the Tutira creek in 1913. Since that date the plant has again moved coastwards several miles.
Another St John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) appeared at Tutira in December of 1913 on the edge of the main road. Upon my return after the war the original clump had vanished, but the species had on two separate spots on the roadside re-established itself. For years it has grown thickly on the railway track far south of Napier.
During the war three new roadside plants have reached Tutira—one, a flax (Linum sp.), I had already known of near Napier and near Petane; another, Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), first noticed close to the station stables, was a complete stranger. Reaching us from the south, it seems to have been carried on certain tools, for small groups of the plant have appeared only where culverts have been recently deepened and cleaned; no intermediate specimens or groups have sprung up,—the species has confined itself strictly to soils shovelled from choked culverts. Lastly, there has appeared a very worthless grass called Reflexed Poa (Poa distans). I had first seen it fifteen seasons ago on the Tangoio coast road.
The reader has now seen how on Tutira each accretion in its growth, each phase in its development, has been marked by the establishment of one or more aliens seemingly sympathetic with the particular change. Pioneer work, cessation of tribal war, stocking, seed-sowing, settlement, introduction of machinery—each is stamped on the surface of the station in the shape of a corresponding weed; the very commerce of the Dominion indeed may be inferred from the popular names. Of these station aliens, England has supplied par excellence “English grass,” that is ryegrass, white clover, and cock's-foot; Scotland page 306 the “Scotchman” (Cnicus lanceolatus). “Chili grass” (Sporobolus indicus) recalls the period of considerable trade with South America, “Californian stinkweed” (Gillia squarrosa), commerce with the United States, “Indian daub” or Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), transference perhaps of troops from that great dependency, “Canadian thistle” (Cnicus arvensis) and “Canadian groundsel” (Erigeron Canadensis), exchange of goods with Canada; lastly, record of early connection with South Africa, with the Cape of Good Hope, is preserved by such plant-names as “Capeweed” (Crepis taraxacifolia), “Cape gooseberry” (Physalis peruviana), and “Cape barley,” not improbably from its hardihood, the old Scottish bere (Hordeum sp.).
Had the vast change sketched in preceding chapters been fulfilled according to the inclination of man, only grasses and fodder-plants for his domesticated beasts, shrubs, flowers, fruit for his taste, and forest-trees for the pride of his heart, would have been acclimatised—Tutira would have been as the Garden of Eden, nourishing nothing but what was good for food and pleasant to the eye. Such an ideal condition is impossible to maintain; the pioneers of every colony set in motion machinery beyond their ultimate control; no legislation can regulate the dissemination of seeds. As the sun shines and the rain falls alike on the just and the unjust, so fleets, railroads, and highways convey seeds good and bad to a like common destination.
1 I then represented the Mohaka riding on the Wairoa County Council,—the time was well spent. What I learnt of wayside weeds and their habits could hardly have been acquired otherwise.