Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/425

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
419
A ROUND-THE-WORLD BOTANICAL EXCURSION

apples, peaches and cherries were in full bloom, for September is spring and January is midsummer.

There are splendid forests in the north island, but there are also large areas covered by the bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) and worthless, but very dense shrubs. When once cleared, the ground is valuable, for it is extremely fertile and the climate is ideal for raising crops. New Zealand has a hearty welcome for the settler, and the country is prosperous, so prosperous that it is hard to get a man to carry a camera or collecting outfit, for every man has a job and every boy is in school. I did not see a beggar in New Zealand. Women vote under the same conditions as men and neither the country nor the m women seem to have suffered any damage.

After tramping for several days in the vicinity of Auckland, I divided the rest of my time between the forests of Ohakune and Owharoa, and the hot springs district about Eotorua.

The forests about Ohakune consist principally of two conifers, Podocarpus and Dacrydium, both large trees, reaching a diameter of six or seven feet and a height of nearly 200 feet. The branching is mostly in the upper third of the tree, and, consequently, the lumber, which resembles white pine, is very clear. The saw mill at Ohakune and the methods of lumbering are not on so large a scale as in our own forests. A six-foot log must be split before it goes to the saw.

Ohakune is a botanist's paradise. While there is no need of an ax to clear the way, the forest is like a labyrinth and one must take great care not to get lost. (Fig. 1.) In a Mexican forest one never gets lost, because the necessary use. of the machete blazes a trail which one can easily follow back; but in this labyrinth at Ohakune, without any thread, I got lost within half a mile of my hotel. The tree ferns, Dicksonia and Cyathea, are abundant, while smaller ferns cover the ground and hang from the trees. In our own flora only two families of ferns, the Osmundaceæ and Polypodiaceæ, form any conspicuous feature of the landscape; but at Ohakune all the seven time-honored families are present and abundant.

Snow falls every winter, often a couple of inches deep on the level. This was a great surprise to me, for I had always associated the filmy ferns and tree ferns with rather tropical conditions, but here the snow collects in the nests formed by the crowns of the larger ferns, while it entirely covers the smaller filmy ferns. Two much-prized species, the prince's feather (Todea superba), a magnificent fern almost never seen in conservatories, and the kidney fern (Trichomanes reniforme) are very abundant here.

The object of the trip to Owharoa was to see the kauri forests (Fig. 2). The kauri (Agathis australis) is the most important timber tree of New Zealand and it also furnishes the gum from which dammar