Friday, December 10, 2010

NZ Bee Plants

The 2 photos above are of our native Manuka  Leptospermum scoparium , a scrubby bush that grows all over the country. Once thought of as a weed by farmers, my father spent many days `scrub cutting`and burning manuka off the steep hills, later sowing  grass seed, it is now considered NZ`s best honey producing plant !! Beekeepers have been known to helicopter hives into very isolated valleys and hillsides to capture the nectar from this flower. Manuka honey is now used in medicine all over the world, pioneered by our own Dr Peter Molan from Waikato University, here in Hamilton. The dark, strong flavored honey is probably the most expensive to buy here in NZ, with most of it exported overseas.       

Native flax Phormium tenax is another widely grown NZ plant that bees love gathering the pollen and nectar from. Birds love it to, even starlings can be seen with a yellow head after dipping in for the treat. Maori used the strong fibrous leaves of flax to weave into clothing, decorative panels, water proof roofing, utensils, just about everything. It was the only plant that was available for them to use in this cool, temperate land, no big animals for skins, just lots of amazing birds that either didn`t fly or hopped through the trees, having no natural predators until man arrived ! Flax also has many excellent medicinal properties, animals will naturally self-medicate with flax leaves if able to access it.
There are a number of hybrid species, with P.cookianum the mountain flax, smaller then P.tenax planted alot in gardens. Many of our NZ native plants can be found growing all over the world these days, I always smile when I see flax or cabbage trees growing in cold countries, sometimes having to be wrapped up for winter !



Marilyn said...

Very interesting post about these two plants. We have manuka in our garden as well as in the reserve over the fence and harakeke there as well but I must say that one thing that has been worrying me is that we haven't had any bees in our garden - it's only recently that I have seen two or three flying around.

Alessandro said...

I am a Italian beekeeper.
Way there are no bees in your garden ?
Is it normal? Are there few hives near? Are the bees death ?
Where is your garden?