Bloody Moth Plant!

Trip Start Mar 12, 2012
Trip End Jul 10, 2012

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What I did
Motutapu Island

Flag of New Zealand  , Auckland,
Sunday, March 18, 2012

 Well, today I got up bright and early and headed off to the ferry pier, to take part in some conservation work on Motutapu Island. I had the choice of weeding or working in the nursery, so went for weeding as I thought it sounded more exciting! We arrived on the island, and got into our gear. I had to wear a full body overall, gloves, and was armed with a knife and shears. Once everyone was ready we split up into groups, left the nursery volunteers behind, and headed off into the bush. I don't know what I had expected the island to be like, but I didn't expect the thick, almost rainforest like bush that we went into! The amazing part was, that every tree in this thick forest had been planted by volunteers. A truly astonishing achievement.

 As we made our way in, I was briefed on our 'target'; a destructive vine called 'Moth Plant'. It winds its way around trees, quickly strangling them, and spreads it's flowery vines through the canopies, destroying many different species of trees. A clever plant, its vines and leaves are the same colour as the underside of the tree canopy, so very hard to spot. But the other volunteers were old hands, and quickly began to spot some vines. The way to get rid of it is to cut it off at the root, then spray to root with poison to kill it. But the plant produces pods of seeds, which are the main things to get rid of, as each pod contains hundreds of seeds, and leaving one pod behind could lead to even more growing.

 It seemed that today was my lucky day (sort of), as we came across quite a few major infestations. One was so extensive that we sadly had to cut down around 3 trees just to get rid of it all. It was very hard work cutting and pulling the vines down, then going through every bit to collect the pods. The plant also secretes a milky sap when cut, which can be harmful if you get it on your skin, hence the overalls and gloves, so it was messy work! We saw quite a bit of wildlife during the day, including stick insects, fantails and tuis! Also heard a few nesting saddlebacks, which are quite rare.

Finally, after a lot of hard work we headed back home, bringing a dozen sacks full of pods with us. After changing and cleaning our tools, we had sausages and tea in the original homestead house, overlooking Home Bay. A lovely (and tasty) way to end the afternoon. I thoroughly recommend that anyone visiting or staying in Auckland participates in one of the Motutapu Trust's volunteer days. It's a fulfilling day out, and you're really helping make the island better for everyone. Plus you get a BBQ at the end! What more could you ask for?  

 I also just want to thank Ken and the rest of my group for looking after me and making me feel so welcome!
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