Botany Page

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A botanical walk through Willowbank reserve

Willowbank Reserve is located near the southern entry to the suburb of Tawa. 5.5 hectares in size, it is an area of historical interest, being part of a farm called Boscobel owned by William Earp, an early settler to the area in the 1850s. The flora in this reserve includes heritage fruit trees some of which are thought to have been planted by William Earp. Other exotic species trace their origins back to the farm trees planted by the settlers. New Zealand natives are also present.

The reserve is divided into three main areas. At the end near Outlet City there is a grassed area, recently allocated as a dog exercise area, that slopes gently up to the Bucket Tree Lodge. A second part of the reserve includes the orchard, a children’s play area and picnic tables and is accessed down the start of the Tawa Valley Pathway – Ara Tawa. A third area called the Dell is accessed across a bridge spanning the Porirua Stream and pathways lead through an area newly replanted with native species after pine trees were removed and on into a number of small glades.

From the early 1980s the Tawa Rotary Club worked together with the reserves committee of then then Tawa Borough Council to develop this reserve. Areas were cleared, trees and shrubs planted, seating tables and barbecues installed. Bridges were built to connect the parts of the reserve across the stream. A children’s playground was also added. In the last few years an interest group, the Willowbank Reserve Care group has become active, meeting weekly on a Thursday morning to weed and care for the area including the planting of trees during the winter.

Walking from the East end of the Outlet City car park

At the end of the car park the entrance to the reserve is near a fine grove of cabbage trees (ti kouka, Cordyline australis). Walking up the path some recent clearing and planting undertaken by the Willowbank Care group can be observed. Look for nikau (Rhopalostylis sapida), and Olearia sp. In preparation for this planting, weeds have been removed, notably Tradescantia and blackberry. Weed infestation is an ongoing problem in many reserves.

Planted in the lawn ahead are 11 kauri  trees, Agathus australis.  These were planted in 2004 in commemoration of the filming of the Tolkien books, the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Kauri naturally grow above the 36oS so are not endemic to the Wellington region.

Also towering above this grassed area, recently set aside as a dog exercise area, are several southern blue gum trees (Eucalyptus globulus). Along the stream bank to the left are more recent plantings of NZ natives including manuka, makomako and koromiko varieties.

The bucket tree is a landmark tree in Tawa and on the register of notable trees. Estimated to be 150 years old it is a single tree of Macrocarpa (Cupressus macrocarpa). It is pruned once a year to maintain its health and shape. Nearby is a Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla).

Walking down from the motel carpark we are on the southern end of Te Ara Tawa – the pathway that runs through the valley to Porirua. The pathway was completed in 2014 and in the gardens surrounding the motel and leading down under the railway, the use of natives to create attractive gardens can be seen. Coloured flaxes, Meuhlenbeckia and Hebes are used.

The old orchard trees are found at the lower end of the grassed area leading to the playground. Most are apples but there is still remaining a ‘Conference’ pear which has been propped up. At the top end of this area are seven heritage fruit trees propagated from cuttings taken from the original trees.

Around and in this area are numbers of Holly (Ilex). The presence of scarlet berries indicate which of the trees are female, and the berries are in abundance at this time of the year. Holly and Hawthorn were commonly used by the early settlers as shelter trees. Both trees are now regarded as ‘weeds’ in reserves and would normally be removed, but given their link with the early history of Tawa, they are regarded as part of Willowbank Reserve.

There are a number of memorial trees planted in the reserve. For example a Matai (Prumnopitys taxifolia) tree near the stream was planted to remember Allan Todd, a founding member of Friends of Tawa Bush.

Across the bridge spanning the stream a path winds around a small curved bluff into an area where new planting of native trees has been done following the removal of pine trees that toppled in a storm. Across another bridge the path then follows the stream into an area called the dell. Small mown areas link with one another. There is a lovely specimen of Rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum) in one clearing and a number of memorial Tawa trees (Beilschmedia tawa) have been planted around the edges of another.

Two books published by Tawa Historical Society will give more information on the history of Willowbank.

‘Willowbank Reserve, Tawa and its environs’ authors Bruce Murray and David Parsons 2018

‘Tawa the tree the community and its reserves’ author Gilbert Roper 2017

Both books are in the Tawa Library collection and also available for purchase from the library.

A botanical walk through Willowbank Reserve

Willowbank Reserve is located near the southern entry to the suburb of Tawa. 5.5 hectares in size, it is an area of historical interest, being part of a farm called Boscobel owned by William Earp, an early settler to the area in the 1850s. The flora in this reserve includes heritage fruit trees some of which are thought to have been planted by William Earp. Other exotic species trace their origins back to the farm trees planted by the settlers. New Zealand natives are also present.

The reserve is divided into three main areas. At the end near Outlet City there is a grassed area, recently allocated as a dog exercise area, that slopes gently up to the Bucket Tree Lodge. A second part of the reserve includes the orchard, a children’s play area and picnic tables and is accessed down the start of the Tawa Valley Pathway – Ara Tawa. A third area called the Dell is accessed across a bridge spanning the Porirua Stream and pathways lead through an area newly replanted with native species after pine trees were removed and on into a number of small glades.

From the early 1980s the Tawa Rotary Club worked together with the reserves committee of then then Tawa Borough Council to develop this reserve. Areas were cleared, trees and shrubs planted, seating tables and barbecues installed. Bridges were built to connect the parts of the reserve across the stream. A children’s playground was also added. In the last few years an interest group, the Willowbank Reserve Care group has become active, meeting weekly on a Thursday morning to weed and care for the area including the planting of trees during the winter.

Walking from the East end of the Outlet City car park

At the end of the car park the entrance to the reserve is near a fine grove of cabbage trees (ti kouka, Cordyline australis). Walking up the path some recent clearing and planting undertaken by the Willowbank Care group can be observed. Look for nikau (Rhopalostylis sapida), and Olearia sp. In preparation for this planting, weeds have been removed, notably Tradescantia and blackberry. Weed infestation is an ongoing problem in many reserves.

Planted in the lawn ahead are 11 kauri  trees, Agathus australis.  These were planted in 2004 in commemoration of the filming of the Tolkien books, the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Kauri naturally grow above the 36oS so are not endemic to the Wellington region.

Also towering above this grassed area, recently set aside as a dog exercise area, are several southern blue gum trees (Eucalyptus globulus). Along the stream bank to the left are more recent plantings of NZ natives including manuka, makomako and koromiko varieties.

The bucket tree is a landmark tree in Tawa and on the register of notable trees. Estimated to be 150 years old it is a single tree of Macrocarpa (Cupressus macrocarpa). It is pruned once a year to maintain its health and shape. Nearby is a Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla).

Walking down from the motel carpark we are on the southern end of Te Ara Tawa – the pathway that runs through the valley to Porirua. The pathway was completed in 2014 and in the gardens surrounding the motel and leading down under the railway, the use of natives to create attractive gardens can be seen. Coloured flaxes, Meuhlenbeckia and Hebes are used.

The old orchard trees are found at the lower end of the grassed area leading to the playground. Most are apples but there is still remaining a ‘Conference’ pear which has been propped up. At the top end of this area are seven heritage fruit trees propagated from cuttings taken from the original trees.

Around and in this area are numbers of Holly (Ilex). The presence of scarlet berries indicate which of the trees are female, and the berries are in abundance at this time of the year. Holly and Hawthorn were commonly used by the early settlers as shelter trees. Both trees are now regarded as ‘weeds’ in reserves and would normally be removed, but given their link with the early history of Tawa, they are regarded as part of Willowbank Reserve.

There are a number of memorial trees planted in the reserve. For example a Matai (Prumnopitys taxifolia) tree near the stream was planted to remember Allan Todd, a founding member of Friends of Tawa Bush.

Across the bridge spanning the stream a path winds around a small curved bluff into an area where new planting of native trees has been done following the removal of pine trees that toppled in a storm. Across another bridge the path then follows the stream into an area called the dell. Small mown areas link with one another. There is a lovely specimen of Rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum) in one clearing and a number of memorial Tawa trees (Beilschmedia tawa) have been planted around the edges of another.

Two books published by Tawa Historical Society will give more information on the history of Willowbank.

‘Willowbank Reserve, Tawa and its environs’ authors Bruce Murray and David Parsons 2018

‘Tawa the tree the community and its reserves’ author Gilbert Roper 2017

Both books are in the Tawa Library collection and also available for purchase from the library.

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