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June 2023 – September 2023

Rebecca Ronald is a photographer living in Avondale, with strong connections to the Coromandel Peninsula and the Far North. She enjoys walking and cycling in our neighbourhood, which provides a great way to switch off from her job as an eLearning developer, and her te reo Māori studies. 

This series of photographs celebrates the natural beauty that can be found along the NL2A Pathway.  “The diversity of plant types reflects the diversity in our area. The different forms, shapes, textures in our native flora is really fun to explore, photograph and celebrate.”

Rebecca is ‘device agnostic’ – using either a DSLR or a phone camera to capture her photos, and says that “the best sort of camera is the one you happen to have with you at the time”. Her photos are shared on social media #Rebs’ Leafy Lens, with the goal of encouraging others to explore the mental and physical benefits of being around plants, getting outdoors and exploring their neighbourhoods. She blames her teaching background for the fact that she wants to teach the world “how cool nature is!”. 

Tī kōuka/cabbage tree (Cordyline australis)

Location: Chalmers Reserve

Shape: An iconic New Zealand plant, the cabbage tree has long, sword-shaped leaves arranged spirally around the stem in tufts at the ends of long trunks with rumpled cork-like bark.

Uses:  Historically, the leaves were used for thatching roofs and making baskets, mats, and rain capes. The inner bark of the tree was used for making twine and ropes. The young shoots of tī kōuka were sometimes consumed as a food source by Māori. The dried leaves make good fire-starters.

Rongoā: Infusions made from the bark or leaves have been used for digestive issues, including stomach pains and indigestion. The inner bark of the tree has been used to create poultices for treating wounds and skin infections.*

Fun facts: 

  • The inner part of tī kōuka tufts tastes slightly nutty.
  • Gardeners love tī kōuka because they look interesting, but they don’t love the strong, stringy fronds that fall on the ground and tangle up in lawnmowers. 
  • Tī kōuka leaves often exhibit a glossy surface due to the presence of a waxy cuticle, which helps reduce water loss and protect the leaves from environmental stressors.

Ngaio (Myoporum laetum) 

Location: Olympic park

Shape: Ngaio are medium-sized shrubs with dark green leaves arranged alternately on the branches. They have a slightly toothed margin and are most-easily recognised by tiny lighter dots all over the leaves. 

Uses:  The wood of Ngaio is dense and hard, and in the past, it was used for carving and tool handles.

Rongoā: Ngaio contain compounds that have been used to treat various ailments, including wounds, skin conditions, fungal infections and rheumatism. They can be crushed and applied to the skin as poultices or rubbed on as oils.*

Fun facts: 

  • The leaves smell faintly sweet when rubbed or crushed.
  • Ngaio has a high tolerance for coastal conditions and is often found in seaside areas. 
  • Leaves have stomata (small pores) on the lower leaf surface, allowing for gas exchange and the uptake of carbon dioxide and the release of oxygen and water.

Mānuka (Leptospermum scoparium)

Location: Olympic park

Shape: Small, narrow leaves about 1-2 centimetres long, arranged oppositely on the stems. 

Uses: Today mānuka is mostly used for essential oils and honey production, which make use of its antibacterial and healing properties. The wood is strong and dense, producing lots of heat when burned.

Rongoā: The leaves and bark of Manuka contain essential oils with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. They have been drunk as a tea to reduce fever and help with bladder infections, used on the skin for wounds and skin infections, or in steam inhalations for respiratory conditions.* 

Fun facts: 

  • You can tell mānuka and kānuka apart by the bark, or by grabbing a sprig of leaves – if it feels prickly and sharp it’s probably mānuka.
  • Manuka leaves have oil glands or resin ducts that produce oils and release a distinct aromatic fragrance when crushed.
  • The nectar of Manuka flowers contains a compound called methylglyoxal (MGO), which contributes to the honey’s therapeutic qualities.

Tōtara  (Podocarpus totara)

Location: Chalmers Reserve

Shape: A large tree with small, needle-like leaves that are dark green, sometimes almost yellowish. 

Uses: Totara timber was used traditionally by Māori to make waka(canoes), tools, weapons and buildings. It was also used for carving because it is highly durable, resistant to rot, and is known for its beautiful reddish-brown colour.

Rongoā: The bark and leaves have been brewed into tea or made into steam inhalations to help relieve congestion and promote easier breathing in conditions such as coughs, colds, and asthma.*

Fun facts: 

  • Totara is one of the largest native trees in New Zealand, capable of reaching heights of up to 30 metres.
  • It is a slow-growing and long-lived tree, with some specimens estimated to be over 1,000 years old. 
  • Totara leaves are arranged spirally along the branches, providing good light capture for photosynthesis.

Karamū (coprosma repens)

Location: Olympic park

Shape: Coprosma species have a wide range of leaf shapes, colours and plant shapes. In general the leaves are small and elliptical, often shiny and smooth with a waxy texture.

Uses: Coprosma plants are often grown as ornamental shrubs in gardens and landscaping due to their colourful foliage and low maintenance requirements. The leaves of some coprosma species have been used in traditional Māori medicine to treat skin ailments and infections. 

Rongoā:  The leaves have been used in infusions to address digestive issues and urinary problems. Poultices made from the leaves have been applied to the skin to reduce pain, soothe skin irritations and insect bites.*

Fun facts: 

  • Coprosma leaves usually have clearly visible veins that transport water, nutrients, and sugars throughout the plant.
  • The Coprosma genus is diverse, with over 90 species found in New Zealand. 
  • Many Coprosma leaves have a thick and leathery texture, an adaptation that helps reduce water loss and protect the leaves from harsh environmental conditions.

Harakeke/flax (Phormium tenax)

Location: Chalmers Reserve

Shape: Long, narrow leaves that grow in clumps. The tough leaves have a prominent midrib and a coloured outer edge which helps identify the type of harakeke you are looking at.

Uses:  Flax leaves can be woven into traditional Māori textiles such as kete (bags), whāriki (mats) and piupiu (skirts). The muka fibres were historically used for ropes and sails.

Rongoā: The heated leaves have been applied as poultices to treat wounds, burns, and skin infections, as has the gum of harakeke plants. Infusions or decoctions made from the leaves have been used to alleviate digestive issues and soothe sore throats.*

Fun facts: 

  • Despite its name, NZ Flax is not actually related to true flax (Linum usitatissimum). It is a distinct plant native to New Zealand and belongs to the family Asphodelaceae.
  • The leaves have a tough, fibrous structure due to the presence of vascular bundles, which provide strength and rigidity.
  • The leaves of NZ Flax have a xeromorphic adaptation, meaning they are adapted to survive in dry or arid conditions. They have a waxy cuticle on the leaf surface, which helps reduce water loss through evaporation.
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