A small pale pink flower blooming from cracks and crevices along Auckland’s Oakley Creek has caught the eye of botanists who believe they may be propagating a new, previously unidentified native species of geranium.
The NZ Transport Agency says the discovery of the Oakley Creek geranium and the work underway to preserve its future survival shows how large transport projects can harness the passion of engineers, scientists and the community to get lasting benefits that go well beyond a project’s physical infrastructure.
The geranium was found growing alongside the Hendon Park/Alan Wood Reserve stretch of Oakley Creek, Te Auaunga stream, as part of an extensive study of the Waterview Connection’s ecological footprint.
As is typical of all geraniums native to New Zealand, their swollen roots are obvious adaptations to dry, gravelly, sandy or light-loamy soils – however, this geranium has a narrower taproot than many, perhaps reflecting moisture levels along the creek where it was discovered.
Waterview Connection ecologist, Kathryn Longstaff from Tonkin + Taylor, which is part of the Well-Connected Alliance delivering the project, says it’s possible the geranium found its way to New Zealand from Australia – or that it is a variant of this country’s few indigenous geraniums.
“The Oakley Creek geranium has one significant characteristic that makes it different from others encountered in the area, the leaf stem hairs lie flat, rather than upright.”
“The genus is rare around New Zealand and to find one that is not quite like the others, that’s quite exciting, even if it turns out to be an introduced one. And if it’s a new native species that will be really cool.”
A team of people within the Waterview Connection project have been restoring Oakley Creek which had been suffering from neglect. The area is now recovering and native plants now line the creek’s banks, and microenvironments are quickly establishing themselves.”
“That’s great news for biodiversity – providing better habitats for things like eels, insects and food sources and it was fabulous to find eels in the stream recently,” says Kathryn Longstaff.
The plants that could be left undisturbed were fenced off. Seed was then collected and propagated at Auckland’s Oratia Native Nursery. Since then 1,400 Oakley Creek seedlings have been planted along the creek.