Rare plant discovered at Watercare Coastal Walkway

28 November 2018

The Watercare Coastal Walkway in Māngere is loved by visitors all year round, who come to walk, cycle or watch migrating birds. Now the walkway has taken on extra significance, after the discovery of a very rare and endangered plant there.
 
Native musk is a low-growing succulent with striking grey foliage and small white flowers with yellow centres. A large patch has been found growing in a wetland area by a local botanist, Dr Mike Wilcox.

Native musk
Thyridia repens or native musk.

A former president of the Auckland Botanical Society, Dr Wilcox is very excited about the find: “I have been studying the plants along the coastal walkway for about 10 years and have discovered a number of rare species here such as the stonecrop and hairy native willow herb but the native musk is the most significant as it’s very rare in Auckland. In fact, the closest place I’ve ever seen it grow in good amounts is Miranda, overlooking the Firth of Thames.”
 
Native musk forms a dense mat and its Latin name is Thyridia repens, with repens meaning ‘creeping.’ The flowers look like a miniature version of the snapdragon commonly found in gardens.
 
How it got here is a bit of a mystery. It could have come via Miranda, but native musk is also found in Australia and Dr Wilcox wonders if it was carried via migrating waterfowl, as he’s identified other Australian plants that have turned up in the area.
 
On 17 November, Dr Wilcox guided 20 members of the Auckland Botanical Society to see the musk colony. They spent two hours looking over the general site, photographing the plants and taking notes. The information will included in a 25-page article to be published in the Auckland Botanical Society Journal next year about plants discovered on the walkway during the past decade.

Members of the Auckland Botanical Society look at native musk on the Watercare Coastal Walkway.
Members of the Auckland Botanical Society look at native musk on the Watercare Coastal Walkway.
 
Watercare environmental technician Liam Templeton is delighted that rare plants have found their way to the walkway: “I think it’s fantastic news. This is one of the benefits of having the community involved in our foreshore and our walkway and how exciting it is to have such a rare species here.

"We’re really pleased the plant life here is displaying such diversity and we’re doing everything we can to preserve it.”
 
Watercare’s main and renewals plan engineer Roscoe Wightman recently took drone photos of the native musk vegetation, which covers the area of a small pond. The distinctive grey foliage makes it easy to spot from the air. Comparative shots will be taken in future months to keep track of growth.
 
The exact location of the musk is being secret, so that it doesn’t become trampled by curious visitors. But it’s hoped the find will spark a new curiosity and interest in everyone for the unique flora we have along the walkway. Experts from the Auckland Council Biodiversity Team are monitoring the colony and advising on how best to ensure its survival.

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