A relic of the Jurassic period - Spotlight on the Kahikatea

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Our Ecology Consultant Dr. Arie Spyksma shines the spotlight on New Zealands tallest forest tree this week.

Kahikatea (Dacrycarpus dacrydioides) grows in excess of 60 metres on occasion. Amazingly, these trees are a relic of the Jurassic period, with pollen and leaves being discovered in Jurassic rocks (160 – 180 million years old) where they were likely pollinated by pterosaurs, not birds.

Historically there were widespread kahikatea forests through New Zealand’s low lying areas, with these trees thriving in frequently damp areas such as floodplains and swamps. Unfortunately, the expansion of New Zealand’s agricultural interests and the conversion of many low lying boggy areas into uniform expanses of pasture lead to the demise of much of our kahikatea forest. The best place to still see these forests in their prime today are the extensive freshwater swamp forests in Westland.

These kahikatea made up part of a small remnant grove in South Auckland, near Pukekohe. At the time of taking this photo (March) many of the fleshy seed receptacles had ripened (changing from green to orange/red) and were being engulfed by a litany of tui and kereru, a highly effective dispersal mechanism. 

Arie’s field of expertise is extremely wide. He works largely in ecological impact assessment, which involves environmental monitoring, marine monitoring, fauna survey, report writing, scientific research, field research, conservation and ecological restoration. 

For more information on Arie view his profile here.